NL West Notes: Bellinger, Longoria, Diamondbacks, Johnson

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With former MVP Cody Bellinger projected to earn $18.1MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility, there has been plenty of speculation that the 27-year-old might not be tendered a contract.  Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was non-committal about Belllinger’s situation, telling reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that the Dodgersstill very much believe in Belli’s ability,” and that the club has “time to work through what everything looks like” prior to Friday’s deadline.

Unsurprisingly, Bellinger’s agent Scott Boras was quick to downplay the idea of a non-tender, as Boras highlighted his client’s excellent defense, throwing arm, baserunning ability, and age (27).  “You just don’t find talents like this….It’s really about getting his strength back so he can repeat his skill level,” Boras said, noting the injuries that may have caused Bellinger’s huge dropoff at the plate over the last two seasons.  Bellinger has hit only .193/.256/.355 in 900 plate appearances since the start of the 2021 campaign.  However, both Boras and Friedman pointed to the idea that a normal and healthy offseason could help Bellinger get on track, as Bellinger’s regular work with the Dodgers’ hitting coaches and conditioning staff was interrupted last winter by the lockout.

Other notes from around the NL West…

  • Evan Longoria said last month that the Giants, Rays, and Diamondbacks were his preferred destinations for his final season, with the D’Backs listed alongside Longoria’s two former teams because the veteran third baseman has a home in Arizona.  As such, Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic reports that the Diamondbacks are indeed expected to check in on Longoria in free agency.  The 37-year-old has hit a solid .252/.333/.466 with 27 homers since the start of the 2021 season, but injuries have limited Longoria to 589 PA and 170 games.  Josh Rojas’ versatility would allow for Longoria to get some time at third base and at DH, and the D’Backs are looking for right-handed hitting in general.  As Piecoro notes, Longoria has some extra appeal as a veteran leader on a young team.
  • Also from Piecoro’s post, Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen told reporters that “we have had half the league, at least, talk about our outfielders.”  With so many left-handed hitting young outfielders on the roster, it isn’t surprising that teams are eager to discuss trades about Arizona’s surplus.  However, Hazen quieted rumblings that a trade would occur soon, saying “we’re just starting to get a handle on what type of offers we could make and what makes sense for us to help our major league team.”
  • It doesn’t appear as though Pierce Johnson will re-sign with the Padres, a source tells Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  Elbow tendinitis cost Johnson most of the 2022 campaign, as he pitched only 14 1/3 innings over 15 appearances in the regular season and then 4 1/3 more frames during the playoffs.  The 31-year-old Johnson had strong (3.09 ERA, 32.1% strikeout rate) numbers over 78 2/3 innings in 2020-21, albeit with a high 11.1% walk rate.  Since San Diego seems to be moving on, Johnson and his excellent curveball could be an intriguing bounce-back target for the many teams looking for bullpen help in free agency.

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