It is possible that longtime first baseman Brandon Belt has played his last game in an SF Giants uniform. After handling the position for 12 seasons, the Giants might need to look for a new first baseman for next year but what if next year's first baseman is already on the roster? Joc Pederson could fill that role next year as the Giants have already expressed interest in retaining the nine-year veteran.
Could the SF Giants first baseman for 2023 already be on the roster?
Let's take a step back. The Giants already have several first basemen on the roster for next season. Wilmer Flores is under contract after signing a two-year, $13 million extension with a mutual option for a third season.
The Giants will have a decision to make on J.D. Davis and LaMonte Wade Jr. as well as both are under team control for 2023. That said, it is not a given that either player returns as both are due raises through arbitration.
Flores can certainly handle first base, but the Giants like his ability to play second base and third base as well. I would not expect him to be tied primarily to one position, which leads us to Pederson.
The Giants' defense has been one of the worst in baseball in 2022, and that is especially true in the outfield. Giants outfielders have combined to be worth -40 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and -23 Outs Above Average (OAA), which ranks as last in both metrics. In terms of DRS, no team is even close to the Giants.
They have had a lot of issues in the outfield and that extends beyond just one player. With that being said, Pederson has been worth -12 DRS and -9 OAA in the outfield in 2022, which is one of the worst marks among major league outfielders in both DRS and OAA.
This is a trend that extends beyond just one season and outfield defense does not tend to get better with age. The left-handed bat will be entering his age-31 season next year, and it is time to consider a position change.
The nine-year veteran has experience at first base. He has played a total of 150 innings in the majors at first base, and the metrics are not favorable but can he improve with repetitions?
If the Giants are going to bring him back next year, that is a question that they need to find out. Moving him out of left field should improve the outfield defense considerably even if the replacement is an average defender.
Plus, it bears mentioning that not every player can produce enough with the bat to stick at first base. It requires an above-average bat and that has typically been the case for Pederson. This season has been no different as he has registered a .266/.342/.501 line (135 wRC+) with 22 home runs, 66 RBI, and 50 runs in 404 plate appearances.
This includes an 8.9 percent walk rate against a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. The power-hitting outfielder has eclipsed the 20-home run mark for the fifth time in his career. There is no denying that he can hit.
But, is he an outfielder at this stage of his career? The defensive metrics would say that is emphatically not the case. If the Giants bring him back next season, they will need to get creative with how they use him.
Designated hitter is one option, but he could see a lot of at-bats as a platoon hitter against right-handed pitching at first base next year as well.