Brandon Zone remains in San Francisco as the MLB Players Association announced tonight that he has chosen to accept the Giants ’qualifying offer. He will play next season with a $ 18.4MM salary.
Belt spent his entire career in black and orange, first joining the organization when they selected him in the 2009 draft. The left-handed batsman was in the big leagues before 2011, and he spent the past decade as the Giants ’main baseman. He signed a long-term extension in April 2016 to guarantee he will spend at least his first eleven major league seasons in the Gulf Region, and he will now return for a dozen.
This offseason would be presented to Belt with his first chance to test free agency. After ten days for him and his representatives at Excel Sports Management to explore the market, he decided to abandon that possibility. Instead, he will return to a franchise and city with which he is clearly comfortable with a strong one-year pact. The current collective bargaining prohibits teams from tagging a player with QO more than once in his career. Assuming no changes to that provision in the next CBA, Belt is on track to hit free agency next winter with no draft compensation attached.
That would only be necessary, of course, if Belt and the Giants don’t agree on another long-term deal within the next twelve months. Players and teams are free to negotiate an extension even after a player accepts the QO. This is not common, but it is not unheard of either. During the 2019-20 offseason, the White Sox and Jose Abreu lined up on a three-year deal just eight days after Abreu accepted Chicago’s qualifying offer. Belt’s deputies recently discussed the possibility of a multi-year pact, and today’s development would not allow them to continue that.
Regardless of whether a long-term deal is made, the Giants are certainly thrilled to welcome Belt back in 2022. Not only is he a respected member of the organization, he’s coming off perhaps the best two-year stretch of his career. Returning to early 2020, the 33-year-old owns a .285 / .393 / .595 line with 38 home runs through 560 trips to the plate. Among those with more than 500 flat looks, only Juan Soto and Bryce Harper surpassed Belt’s offensive output, as measured by wRC +.
As he did during his career, Belt supported that bottom production with elite beaten ball metrics. He’s been in the top six percent of the league in each of the past two seasons in Statcast’s barrel rate – basically how often he makes hard contact at the optimal angle for an extra-base impact. Its overall hard contact rate and medium exit speed are also above the pair. And Belt achieves that authoritative contact without selling out for power. His 24.8% strikeout rate over the past two seasons is just a tick higher than the league average, while he is pulled walks in a staggering 13.9% of his appearances in the batter box.
Although there is little question about Belt’s status as an impact mid-of-order presence, his profile is not without red flags. As he signed a mid-career extension, his first trip to the open market was set to come before his age-34 campaign. Teams have become increasingly reluctant to give high perennial deals to players through their mid-30s, and this is especially true of defensively limited boppers. And while Belt was great when healthy, he was also pretty often debugged during his career.
Since appearing as a regular in 2012, Belt has only surpassed 500 plate appearances in four seasons. He has dealt with repeated concussions in the past, and he has gone on the injured list four times within the last two years alone. None of those problems resulted in long-term absences during the season, but Belt underwent right heel surgery last offseason and was unable to participate in the Giants’ NL Division Series in 2021 after breaking his left thumb on a hit after pitch. at the end of September.
Between his age, position and injury history, Belt has apparently not generated such interest over the past ten days that he has felt compelled to skip a strong one-year offer. He will return to the middle of the order in a Giants team that will enter the season with astronomical expectations after winning a franchise record 107 games. He will be joined by a franchise mainstay Brandon Crawford, but the club will have their work cut out for them by replacing the production and presence of Buster Posey, after the likely future Hall of Fame announced his retirement two weeks ago.
Belt’s return adds $ 18.4MM to the 2022 books, but that’s fine in their range of comfort. The front office was pleased with the possibility that Belt would return at that price when they did the QO, with good reason. Even after taking into account Belt’s return, San Francisco has only $ 97MM in estimated commitments, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That’s very shy of the franchise’s $ 200MM heights, leaving plenty of room for baseball operations president Farhan Zaidi and his staff to add to a list that faces the possible departure of four-fifths from its 2021 initial rotation.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the news.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.