Any chance of the Dodgers retaining Cody Bellinger at a lower price after they non-tendered him were dashed this afternoon, with the 2019 NL MVP agreeing to terms on a $17.5MM pact with the Cubs. Shortly after news of that agreement broke, L.A. manager Dave Roberts met with reporters and confirmed the club is scouring the market for center field help (via Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times).
Aside from Aaron Judge, the free agent class is handily led by Brandon Nimmo. The longtime Met is coming off arguably a career-best season in which he hit .274/.367/.433 over a personal-high 673 plate appearances. Headed into his age-30 campaign, the lefty-swinging Nimmo is widely expected to command a deal that tops nine figures. Nimmo has drawn interest from the Yankees, Giants, Rays, Mariners and Blue Jays in addition to the incumbent Mets. There’s been no concrete reports of any interest on L.A.’s part, though they’re certainly capable of exploring that market.
Teams not interested in making that kind of commitment are facing a rather sharp drop to the next tier. It’s possible that applies to the Dodgers, and it’s certainly a factor for the Rockies and Reds. Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt tells Danielle Allentuck of the Colorado Springs Gazette the team is seeking a left-handed hitter, preferably a player who can factor into center field (Twitter link). Nimmo fits that description, but both Allentuck and Nick Groke of the Athletic suggested yesterday he’d be too pricey for the Rockies.
Meanwhile, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Reds are seeking center field help and have looked to the free agent market. As with Colorado, Nimmo’s certainly out of the question for Cincinnati. Nightengale suggests the team is likely looking at one-year offers for hitters of interest. Payroll limitations have loomed over the Reds in each of the last two offseasons, and GM Nick Krall told reporters yesterday the front office has “a little bit of money” to spend this winter but cautioned they “don’t have a ton” at their disposal.
With Bellinger off the board, the market beyond Nimmo is very thin. Kevin Kiermaier is perhaps the only regular center fielder available, and he’s coming off a .228/.281/.369 showing with the Rays before his season was cut short by hip surgery. Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweeted this afternoon the Mets could look into Kiermaier if Nimmo signs elsewhere. Beyond the longtime Ray, the market is led by depth options like Rafael Ortega, Adam Engel and Jackie Bradley Jr. Perhaps teams could look to Andrew Benintendi or Joey Gallo given the scarcity of the center field market, although both players have worked exclusively in the corners for the past couple seasons.
It’s a similar story on the trade market, where there aren’t many obvious candidates. Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds will be the subject of renewed speculation after his trade request became public last week, but the Bucs have maintained it won’t increase their likelihood of actually making a move. The Diamondbacks are known to be open to offers on a number of their young outfielders but only in deals that’d net them MLB help. Speculatively speaking, players like Michael A. Taylor or Trent Grisham could plausibly come up in trade discussions, but there’s been no indication either is currently on the block.