HomeMLB RumorsThe Opener: Bellinger, Kiermaier, Cooper

The Opener: Bellinger, Kiermaier, Cooper

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As the 2024 regular season continues, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Bellinger headed for further evaluation:

Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger exited yesterday’s game 7-2 win over the Astros yesterday prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. The 28-year-old had crashed into the outfield wall on a play earlier in the game and was diagnosed with a right rib contusion per a team announcement. Manager Craig Counsell said after the game that x-rays came back negative, but the club will wait to see how the two-time All Star feels today before putting a timetable on his return to action (X link via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers).

Bellinger got off to a slow start this season but has caught fire in recent days, going 10-for-30 with three home runs, a triple, and five walks over his past eight games. That hot stretch has brought his season slash line up to .226/.320/.441 (103 wRC+) despite an fluky low .215 BABIP. Mike Tauchman figures to slide over from right field to center in Bellinger’s absence, with youngster Alexander Canario stepping into the starting lineup in right. A longer absence could open the door for a top prospect such as Pete Crow-Armstrong or Owen Caissie to join the big league club.

2. Kiermaier day-to-day:

The Cubs weren’t the only team to lose their starting center fielder mid-game yesterday, as the Blue Jays removed Kevin Kiermaier from yesterday’s 3-2 loss against the Royals in the sixth inning due to flexor discomfort in his left hip. Per MLB.com’s Injury Tracker, Kiermaier is considered day-to-day for the moment but Toronto had not yet fully evaluated the veteran by the end of last night’s game. It’s the same hip on which Kiermaier required season-ending surgery in July 2022.

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Kiermaier, who has slashed just .193/.246/.246 in 62 trips to the plate this season. Even so, the 34-year-old has continued to provide value to the Jays with his trademark superlative defense in center field. While Kiermaier is down, Daulton Varsho figures to slide over to center field with a combination of Davis Schneider, Cavan Biggio, and Ernie Clement handling left.

3. Where will Cooper land?

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Cubs designated veteran first baseman Garrett Cooper for assignment in a somewhat surprising move. The 33-year-old is coming off a down 2023 season with the Marlins and Padres but has hit .270/.341/.432 (118 wRC+) in limited playing time with the Cubs this season. There are some red flags, as Cooper’s 31.7% strikeout rate would be a career-high over a full season and his .391 average on balls in play is likely to regress.

Even so, Cooper is a former All-Star who has slashed a respectable .264/.336/.445 (112 wRC+) since the start of the 2020 season and boasts a strong .285/.337/.475 slash line against left-handed pitching throughout his career. That could make the veteran an interesting piece for teams in need of help at first base or DH, such as the Red Sox or Astros. The Cubs have one week to either trade, release, or waive Cooper following yesterday’s DFA. Successfully moving him to another team could allow them to get the remainder of his $1.75MM salary off their books, a meaningful sum given their proximity to the first luxury tax threshold.

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