San Francisco Giants: What to do with Brandon Belt


Brandon Belt is an enigma. From his rookie season when he was sent up and down from the minors four times all the way up to last year when he was getting starts in left field, the San Francisco Giants do not seem to know what to do with the highly talented, highly unpredictable player. Belt has moments when he looks like the second coming of Bonds but at other times he can look utterly flummoxed by major league breaking balls. Five years into his career and we still are never sure which Belt is going to show up on any given day.

Now the Giants are at a crossroads with Belt.

Aug 3, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Sabean and Co. just spent a healthy amount of money extending Brandon Crawford, although they still have a great deal of cash to play with. They need help at key spots, specifically starting pitching. At age 27, Belt is two years away from free agency—and in an ideal position for an extension or for a trade. Finally, if the Giants were to move Belt, it would free up first base for when Buster Posey inevitably has to move there full time.

While Belt’s productivity is all over the place, we have a decent idea of who he is and who he is not. He is an above average starting first basemen with fantastic glove skills who gets on base at a respectable pace. He is a great clubhouse guy who is popular with his teammates, coaches, and fans.

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But he is not a 40 home run kind of a guy. He is not an MVP candidate. He is not a player your build your organization around.

Belt is just now hitting his prime and while he has often been injured, these injuries have mostly been freak, isolated incidents, broken wrists and a concussion. These are not indications of major health issues. So again, this makes him both a candidate for an extension or for a trade.

Extension wise, the Brandon Crawford contract seems like a decent comparison. Both Belt and Crawford are five year veterans; both are homegrown talents; both are named Brandon. Crawford and Belt are also fairly comparable offensive 2015 seasons. Each hitting approximately the same number of home runs (Crawford 21, Belt 18) and exactly the same number of doubles (33). Belt strikes out more than Crawford (147 to 119), but he also got on base at a higher clip (.356 to .321).

The difference is that while Belt is merely a good defender, Crawford is a wizard. According to Baseball Reference, Belt saved the Giants 8 runs this past year while Crawford saved 20, netting the shortstop his first Gold Glove.  That being said, Belt earning an extension in the neighborhood of what Crawford received (6 years/ $75 million) seems reasonable if Belt were to produce one more quality season.

Belt is not quite young enough or talented to bring in an excellent trade haul by himself. However, if tied with another solid everyday player (Joe Panik) or a high upside prospect (Tyler Beede, Christian Arroyo), Belt could bring back one of the major trade options of the season.

There is one player in particular the Giants should be thinking about: Jose Fernandez.

Sep 25, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16). Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Reports hint that the Marlins—for whatever weird logic they use—are willing to listen to offers for Fernandez. Fernandez is as good as it gets. In his only full season Fernandez had a minuscule 2.19 ERA and a WHIP below one. Yes, he had Tommy John surgery, but in his brief appearance last year post-surgery he did not appear to have lost anything with a 2.92 ERA and 79 strikeouts in just 64 innings.

If I’m Bobby Evans, I would try to trade the farm for Jose Fernandez and if the farm doesn’t work, I would try trading Brandon Belt.

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Outside of Fernandez, or some other top tier player, it would probably be recommended to hold onto Belt. He has not shown enough ability to be extended quite yet. But just as Crawford had a career defining year in 2015 which netted him a lovely $75 million paycheck, so could Belt in 2016.