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Cody Bellinger agrees to Dodgers deal; Walker Buehler doesn’t settle on contract

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger celebrates after hitting a home run in the playoffs.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger avoided arbitration by reaching a one-year deal with the Dodgers for $16.1 million.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers reached one-year deals with three arbitration-eligible players Friday but didn’t settle on contracts with Walker Buehler and Austin Barnes.

The Dodgers entered Friday with the contracts for Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Julio Urías, Buehler and Barnes still unresolved. The deadline to strike a deal before exchanging figures for a potential arbitration hearing was 10 a.m. Friday, but it’s a soft deadline; the sides can still come to a resolution before a hearing happens. Hearings usually are scheduled for early February, but uncertainty surrounding the start of the season could affect timeline.

The Dodgers agreed to one-year deals with relievers Dylan Floro ($975,000) and Corey Knebel ($5.25 million) on Thursday, though Knebel’s agreement has not been made official. On Friday, Bellinger, Seager, and Urías each agreed to one-year contracts. Bellinger is scheduled to earn $16.1 million. Seager settled on $13.75 million. Urías is on the books for $3.6 million.

Buehler is eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old right-hander qualified as a Super-2 player, a status given to the top 22% of players in service time between their second and third years of service. That designation gives Buehler four years of arbitration eligibility, one more than the standard.

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The Dodgers agreed to terms with a trio of highly regarded prospects among the 22 players they signed on the first day of the international signing period.

Buehler filed for $4.15 million and Dodgers countered with $3.3 million, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. He was slated to earn $603,500 in 2020, but ended up making a prorated, 60-game salary of about $223,000. He posted a 3.44 earned-run average in 36 2/3 innings across eight starts during the regular season before starring in the playoffs. The former first-round pick gave up five runs and compiled 39 strikeouts to 12 walks in 25 innings over five outings.

Barnes filed for $3.3 million and the Dodgers countered at $2 million, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The 31-year-old catcher rebounded from a dismal 2019 season, splitting time with Will Smith in 2020. He wound up starting eight playoff games and batted .320 with an .833 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 29 postseason plate appearances.

Both players could sign multi-year deals before a hearing, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Bellinger’s one-year agreement comes a year after he reached an agreement for $11.5 million for the 2020 season — a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Bellinger, who was coming off an MVP season, ultimately made about $4.2 million in the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season.

Bellinger, 25, who qualified as a Super-2 player last year, was given a $4.6-million raise despite experiencing a dropoff in the truncated 2020 season. The center fielder batted .239 with 12 home runs and a .789 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 56 games. He hit just .212 in the postseason but supplied crucial hits and defensive plays in the Dodgers’ World Series run.

His catch in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, robbing Fernando Tatis Jr. of a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning, helped bury the San Diego Padres. Eleven days later, he blasted the go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, capping the Dodgers’ comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

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That home run came at a price: Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder bashing forearms with Kiké Hernández in celebration. He didn’t miss a game, but went just three for 22 in the World Series and underwent shoulder surgery in November. The Dodgers said he is expected to be ready for spring training.

Seager’s salary will jump from a pre-pandemic $7.6 million after registering one of the most productive seasons in the majors in 2020. The shortstop, who is scheduled to hit free agency next winter, clubbed 15 home runs with a .307 batting average and .943 OPS in 52 regular season games. He carried his torrid production into October. He batted .328 with eight home runs and a 1.171 OPS in 80 plate appearances in October, earning NLCS and World Series MVP honors along the way.

Urías, 24, was primarily used as a starter for the first time since undergoing major shoulder surgery in 2017, but he was deployed in a hybrid role in the playoffs. The left-hander closed out the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the NLCS with three perfect innings out of the bullpen. He then finished off the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series with 2 1/3 more spotless innings, striking out Willy Adames to seal the Dodgers’ first World Series title in 32 years. He is expected to remain in the Dodgers’ starting rotation in 2021.


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