The 27-year-old Bellinger continued to provide Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, in addition to plus speed on the bases, but he also continued to struggle offensively.
Bellinger ventured into the free agent market a year early after he was cut by the Dodgers on Nov. 18 after hitting .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games. He had been due to make in the neighborhood of $18 million in 2023.
He was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player after a 2019 season in which he slashed .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs and 15 stolen bases while being worth 7.7 FanGraphs wins above replacement. Since then, though, Bellinger has slashed just .203/.272/.376 over a stretch of 295 regular-season games. His .648 OPS from 2020 to 2022 ranked 299th out of the 338 qualified hitters during that stretch.
Bellinger was limited to 95 games during the 2021 regular season, when he was on the injured list three times, and batted .165. He hit .353 in 12 games that postseason and had the go-ahead RBI single in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the rival San Francisco Giants. Bellinger also had a tying, three-run homer against Atlanta in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.
In 2020, Bellinger hit .239 with 12 home runs in 56 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He homered three times in the NLCS, and the Dodgers beat the Braves to reach the World Series. They went on to defeat Tampa Bay in six games to win the franchise’s first title since 1988.
Bellinger has battled injuries since his MVP season, including having surgery on his right shoulder in November 2020.
In six MLB seasons, all with Los Angeles, Bellinger has a career .248 batting average with 152 home runs, 422 RBIs and 62 stolen bases. The two-time All-Star selection was NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and NLCS MVP in 2018, and he won a World Series ring in 2020.
ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.