The Chicago Cubs waltzed into the Bronx on Friday and beat the Yankees 3-0, the team’s first-ever win at Yankee Stadium. The highlight of the game belonged to one Cody Bellinger, a former Dodger and MVP now manning center field in Chicago.
That highlight, in case you missed it, went a little something like this:
Cody Bellinger with an absolute BOMB off of Carlos Rodón pic.twitter.com/L0A0Xj7eAB
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 7, 2023
That home run flew off the bat at 104.8 mph and traveled 410 feet. If that seems too short a distance, you’re not the only one. For what’s actually a signature Yankee Stadium home run—a lefty blasting one into the second deck (or third, at the old house)—that one seemed pegged for at least 415 minimum.
All this to say that Bellinger’s home run is just one piece of what’s actually been a strong bounceback in Chicago. He’s batting .303 with nine homers and 29 RBI. Bellinger has also dropped his strikeout rate (K%) to 17.7%, down from 27.3% in 2022.
Granted, a lot of this is luck. Cody Bellinger hasn’t unlocked some new secret weapon or adjustment. In fact, his soft contact rate is the highest it’s ever been at 23%. Eliminate the shift and he’s probably stolen a handful of base hits from opposing fielders. This tracks with Bellinger’s .333 BABIP.
Most important of all, Bellinger is playing on a one-year, $17.5 million deal. The Yankees don’t know when captain and MVP Aaron Judge is coming back from his toe injury. Bellinger’s father, Clay, was a super utility player for the Yankees and won two World Series rings.
You see where we’re headed with this.
It’s almost mid-July and the Yankees desperately need a bat to rejuvenate the offense. Independent of Judge’s injury, nobody in the lineup is hitting well except Anthony Volpe. Jake Bauers was proving reliable enough, but is now out with a bruised shoulder.
The Cubs, on the other hand, are third in the NL Central and seven games behind first-place Cincinnati. Barring Friday’s win being the start of a lengthy winning streak, they’ll be selling at the deadline. What if there was a trade partner they knew so well, that it practically gifted them a World Series some years back?
It’s no secret that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows and loves the Cubs. The Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016 netted the Yankees a young teenage prospect named Gleyber Torres. Five years later, a handful of prospects brought childhood Yankees fan Anthony Rizzo to the Bronx. Reliever Scott Effross, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, was also acquired from Chicago last year.
So what would it take for the Yankees to bring Cody Bellinger to New York? Knowing how Cashman operates, probably not much. The Cubs also won’t demand much in return, being hard sellers.
It just so happens the Yankees have a young and promising center fielder in Estevan Florial. He has never been able to make his mark on the big league roster here, so maybe a change of scenery would be best. He’s batting .295 with 21 home runs and a .992 OPS at Triple-A this year and the walks are slowly catching up with the strikeouts. The Cubs would get someone who can play all three outfield positions, ideal in case Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alcantara need more time in the minors.
The Yankees would get what they’ve needed all this time: a big bat to lead the team while Judge recovers and Giancarlo Stanton continues to struggle.
That said, this is all speculative. There are no reports of the Cubs and Yankees even discussing Cody Bellinger or any player.
However, NJ.com’s Max Goodman spoke to the former MVP after Friday’s game. Bellinger admitted that though he’s focused on his current team, it’s hard to ignore the pinstripes.
“The Yankees mean a lot to our family,” he said. “My dad was part of the championship runs for sure. It’s a really special place to play.”
The pieces are there to make a deal. Better yet, the money isn’t a big deal. The Yankees can either pick up Bellinger’s mutual option or pay him a $5.5 million buyout. He’ll be cheaper than Padres slugger Juan Soto, and way cheaper than Shohei Ohtani.
Mr. Cashman, your move.