A trade with the Kansas City Royals could be the San Francisco Giants answer to unloading Brandon Belt and his remaining contract.
And if his strong finish to the season at Double-A and his impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League is any indication, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft is going to force the team to make that decision at some point during the 2020 season.
Incumbent catcher Buster Posey is still under contract through the 2021 season and owed roughly $47.4 million—including a $3 million buyout on a $22 million club option for 2022—so he’s not going to be changing teams any time soon.
However, he could be change positions.
While Posey remains one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, his offensive production dipped dramatically in 2019 when he posted a career-low 84 OPS+ with a .257 batting average and just 31 extra-base hits in 445 plate appearances.
Moving him out of the crouch and over to first base where he has logged 1,693.1 innings over the course of his MLB career might be the best way to rejuvenate his bat and take some pressure off his surgically repaired hip.
So where does that leave current first baseman Brandon Belt?
Belt, 31, also struggled through a down season at the plate with a 98 OPS+ and 17 home runs, despite finally staying healthy enough to play 156 games.
While his numbers overall were disappointing, his home/road splits suggest a change of scenery could prove beneficial.
- Home: 294 PA, .709 OPS, 13 2B, 5 HR, 20 RBI
- Road: 322 PA, .771 OPS, 19 2B, 12 HR, 37 RBI
With two years and $34.4 million left on his contract, the San Francisco Giants would either need to eat some of that remaining money or take back a similar contract in return if they hope to move Belt this offseason.
The Kansas City Royals look like a potential fit as a trade partner, at least on paper.
Consider the following trade proposal:
The first base position produced -4.0 WAR for the Royals during the 2019 season, the worst production at the position in all of baseball by a wide margin.
Ryan O’Hearn, Cheslor Cuthbert and Lucas Duda handled the bulk of the action, and the team’s first basemen combined to a hit a dismal .220/.280/.367 for an MLB-worst .648 OPS.
Not only would Belt be an immediate upgrade, but he would also provide the team with a potentially valuable trade chip if a change of scenery does, in fact, prove beneficial to his offensive game.
Adding right-hander Jose Marte (No. 18 SF prospect per Baseball America) and left-hander Garrett Williams (No. 21 SF prospect per Baseball America) to the package would give the Royals a reason to explore this trade.
On the Giants side, while both pitchers have significant upside, they will also need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, so they might be more open to the idea of moving them.
In return, the San Francisco Giants would add a veteran left-hander to the starting rotation in Danny Duffy.
With two years and $30.75 million left on his contract, Duffy lines up well financially with Belt.
The 30-year-old signed a five-year, $65 million extension after a breakout 2016 season, and he has averaged 25 starts and 144 innings while posting a 4.35 ERA and 103 ERA+ over the first three years of that deal.
At this point, it seems unlikely he will duplicate his 2016 success when he pitched to a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 188 strikeouts in 179.2 innings.
However, he can still be a useful veteran presence on a young Giants staff, and a move to pitcher-friendly Oracle Park would help keep him pitching at an above-average level for the duration of his contract.
The San Francisco Giants might have to get creative when it comes to finding a way to clear a path for Joey Bart, and this swap of similar contracts with the Kansas City Royals for Danny Duffy is one potential solution.