For the first time in over a decade, the SF Giants could begin next season without a familiar face at first base. According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the Giants are "not expected to push for a reunion" with longtime first baseman Brandon Belt.
Pavlovic: SF Giants "not expected to push for a reunion" with longtime first baseman
This quote could be interpreted in a few different ways. The first way is that San Francisco appears likely to move on from Belt this offseason.
Belt has only played for the Giants in his 12-year career, so it would be odd to see him in a different uniform. That said, the left-handed bat struggled to replicate the success he had at the plate in the previous two seasons.
In 298 plate appearances, Belt registered a .213/.326/.350 (92 OPS+) with eight home runs, 23 RBI, and 25 runs. This included a 12.4 percent walk rate against a 27.2 percent strikeout rate, so the 34-year-old still reached base at a respectable rate. However, this type of production was a sharp decline from the combined .988 OPS he recorded from 2020 - 2021.
There is a reasonable explanation for this decline. Belt was dealing with a nagging knee injury that has affected him for years and underwent surgery in September to alleviate the pain. In Pavlovic's piece, Belt feels good about his odds of returning to the field.
Of course, the other way to interpret the quote from Pavlovic is that the Giants will not push for a reunion, but would welcome him back on a deal that makes sense. Belt will be heading into his age-35 season in 2023, so there will not be a long list of suitors, meaning that he will not carry much leverage. Could this lead to the Giants retaining the first baseman on a low guaranteed salary with incentives for playing time?
That seems possible and it is tough to ignore the fact that both the front office and coaching staff like Belt's at-bat quality. That said, the front office needs the team to perform better than it did in 2022 and it would carry some risk in keeping Belt given his extensive injury history.
That is going to be a tough decision for the front office to make. Belt has meant a lot to the organization and productive major leaguers like him just do not come around that often. Hopefully, the left-handed bat is healthy next year and returns to the form he flashed in recent seasons whether that is with the Giants or a different team.