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SF Giants: Brandon Belt is a qualifying offer candidate

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants hits a single during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 23, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants hits a single during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 23, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Brandon Belt
DENVER, COLORADO – SEPTEMBER 25: Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by Ron Wotus #23 as circles the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on September 25, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Longtime SF Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is finishing the season on a tear and he has squarely positioned himself as a candidate to receive a qualifying offer in the offseason. Given that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is set to expire at the end of the season, the details surrounding the qualifying offer process could change.

SF Giants: Brandon Belt is a qualifying offer candidate

In recent seasons, the Giants have been aggressive in making a qualifying offer, issuing one to Will Smith, Madison Bumgarner, and Kevin Gausman. Smith and Bumgarner rejected the qualifying offer and signed deals with the Atlanta Braves (three years, $40 million) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (five years, $85 million), respectively. However, Gausman accepted his qualifying offer that locked him up for the 2021 season at $18.9 million.

In losing Smith and Bumgarner, the Giants received compensatory picks that they used to select pitcher Nick Swiney and infielder Jimmy Glowenke in the second round of the 2020 draft.

Assuming that the qualifying offer remains in place beyond the current CBA, the Giants seem poised to issue one to Brandon Belt as well. The veteran first baseman is in the midst of a career year, slashing .270/.374/.593 (157 OPS+) with 29 home runs, 59 RBI, and 64 runs scored across 377 plate appearances. This includes a 27.3 percent strikeout rate against a solid 12.7 percent walk rate.

While Belt is swinging and missing at too high of a frequency, he continues to be one of the more patient hitters in baseball. And, that is a trait that the front office and coaching staff have appreciated from the left-handed bat.

Of course, it was a modestly slow start to the season for Belt. He had posted an .875 OPS while struggling to handle high velocity before hitting the injured list with a knee ailment at the end of June. The severity of the injury was enough to question whether Belt had played his final game with the Giants.

He missed six weeks before returning for a key series against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road. He blasted four home runs in that series while helping the Giants take two out of three games against a tough Brewers team.

The 33-year-old has not looked back since that series as he has recorded a 1.071 OPS with 18 home runs in his return from the injured list. This is the best he has looked at the plate and the Giants will have a decision to make in the offseason.

Given his level of production, the Giants can issue a qualifying offer. If he accepts, he would be retained for the 2022 season at an estimated $19 million. If he rejects it, then the Giants would be able to secure a compensatory pick should he sign elsewhere.

The Giants already locked up Brandon Crawford to a two-year, $32 million extension that runs through 2023. The two-year template seems to be a rational approach for Belt as well. That said, the qualifying offer gives the Giants an added layer of control if and when the front office begins contract talks with the veteran first baseman.

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The Giants are more focused on winning the NL West at the moment, but it is becoming difficult to imagine that this is Belt’s last hurrah with the team. It seems likely that both parties will be interested in an extension in the offseason with a qualifying offer serving as a starting point.

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