Giants fans across the globe have fallen in love with their first baseman, Brandon Belt. But they may only love him for a few more years.
Today, the Giants and Belt avoided arbitration on a one year deal worth an estimated $6.2 million deal. That should be a good thing, no? No. The two parties were close to attending an arbitration hearing, where a judge would listen to both sides of the argument and pick whether Belt should be paid his requested $7.5 million or the Giants counter of $5.3 million. While they agreed to a little less than halfway, this marks the second time in four years that Belt has taken the Giants’ this far in the arbitration process.
The organization has not gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004 with A.J. Pierzysnki, whom they lost to. Additionally, Belt is showing signs that he would like to maximize on his contract earnings, just like almost every other athlete out there.
The Giants obviously have not extended Belt yet, and while they extended Brandon Crawford earlier this offseason to a six year $75 million deal, many thought Belt would be next. However, there are rumblings that Belt is looking to far exceed that, and make closer to Freddie Freeman money. The Braves first baseman signed a seven year $132 million deal with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2014 season, and many have compared Belt to Freeman, though so far Freeman has far outperformed Belt.
While the Giants of late have been notoriously known for locking up and keeping their core players together, they may not be too comfortable handing out a $100+ million contract to a first baseman who has been good with the bat but not as good as many predicted. Belt is a lifetime .271/.347/.456 hitter. He has shown the ability to lead an offense when he’s hot, and has shown many flashes of being ice cold.
That type of inconsistency has kept the Giants from seriously extending their first baseman, given it’s a position of depth.
The Giants have Buster Posey who they may want to seriously consider moving to first base full time to save his knees. Moving Posey to first base would allow the Giants to deploy backup catcher Andrew Susac into an everyday role, something he has shown signs of being ready for a few years now.
If the Giants feel the need to keep Posey behind the dish, they have internal options that can readily take over at first base. One option is top prospect Chris Shaw, a 22 first baseman drafted out of Boston College. In 200 plate appearances with Salem Kaiser, Shaw belted (no pun intended) 12 long balls. The 41 strikeouts, however, are of concern.
There are, of course, external options that the Giants can look to via free agency or trade if they wish to get cheaper at first base. They have a few years before they have to seriously consider their options at first base, or even sooner, should they decide to maximize on Belt’s value and trade him at the July deadline or next offseason.
Either way, Giants fans ought to start preparing themselves that first base may not be occupied by their baby Giraffe for much longer.
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