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Dodgers reach arbitration agreement with Cody Bellinger for record $11.5 million

Cody Bellinger agreed to a one-year contract with the Dodgers for $11.5 million Friday, a record for a first-year arbitration player, according to people with knowledge of the deal. The National League most valuable player broke the record of $10.85 million set by the Cubs’ Kris Bryant in 2018.

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who made $4 million in his first year of arbitration in 2029, signed for $7.6 million. Utility player Enrique Hernandez, in his third year of arbitration, agreed to a deal for 5.9 million. Infielder Max Muncy did not have an arbitration deal as of Friday afternoon and faced the prospect of a hearing in February to determine his salary.

The Dodgers reached agreements earlier in the day with pitchers Ross Stripling ($2.1 million) and Julio Urias ($1 million).

Outfielder Joc Pederson, in his third and final year of arbitration, is looking for a bump from his 2019 salary of $5 million after hitting 36 homers last season. Muncy is in his first year of arbitration after two standout seasons with the Dodgers in which he hit .256 with a .927 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 70 homers and 177 RBIs.

The Dodgers have not gone to an arbitration hearing in five years under Andrew Friedman, who took over as president of baseball operations in October 2014. Friedman has used the salary exchange deadline as an arbitrary cutoff for negotiations, a “file-and-trial” approach that has been adopted by most general managers and is intended to secure contract agreements and avoid arbitration.

Utility man Chris Taylor and reliever Pedro Baez also were negotiating arbitration deals Friday. Catcher Austin Barnes ($1.1 million) and reliever Scott Alexander ($875,000) agreed to earlier deals, avoiding arbitration.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the 2018 American League most valuable player, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $27-million deal on Friday, breaking Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado’s arbitration record of $26 million set in 2018. This is Betts’ third year of arbitration before becoming a free agent next year.

Arbitration hearings are adversarial in nature, with players arguing why they deserve a higher salary and teams picking apart the performances of players to prove they’re not worth as much as they’re asking for. The process can leave a sour taste that for some players can linger into free agency.

Bellinger and the Dodgers couldn’t reach agreement on a 2019 deal, and the team renewed the slugger’s contract for $605,000.He will make more than 19 times that in 2020. Bellinger, 24, hit .305 with a 1.035 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 47 homers — the third-highest single-season total in franchise history — 34 doubles, 115 RBIs, 121 runs, 95 walks and just 108 strikeouts to lead the Dodgers to their seventh NL West title in a row and win his first MVP award.

He hit .280 with a .982 OPS, 18 homers, 44 RBIs, 34 walks and 38 strikeouts in 193 at-bats against left-handers after struggling so much against them in 2018 (.226, .681 OPS, six homers, 25 RBIs, 20 walks, 54 strikeouts in 186 at-bats) that he was relegated to a platoon role late in the season.

Bellinger had a monster first half in 2019, hitting .336 with a 1.124 OPS, 30 homers and 71 RBIs in 88 games. He played superb defense at three positions — right field, center field and first base — and won a Gold Glove Award as an outfielder.

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