Giants and Brandon Belt avoid arbitration with one-year deal

The Joaquin Arias of first base. Photo by Bill Zarchy.

Photo by Bill Zarchy.

Giants first basemen Brandon Belt has an official 2014 salary, settling with the club for $2.9 million in his first year of arbitration. It took the 25-year-old flying down to Florida for his hearing before a deal was reached late Tuesday night.

The deal was expected, as the Giants haven’t had an arbitration case since 2004. The contract figure is slightly more than the midpoint of $2.82 million, as Belt asked for $3.6 million and the Giants offered $2.05 million.

Belt is a Super Two, having enough service time to jump his way into the arbitration process without playing a full three seasons. This cost the Giants a little over $2 million in the grand scheme of things, but Belt’s production has been more than enough to justify him being on the big-league roster for quite some time.

It still might behoove the Giants to seek a multi-year deal for Belt, who isn’t a free-agent until 2018. Last season was a coming-out party for the young first baseman, who clubbed 17 home runs and finished with a 142 OPS+. FanGraphs lists Belt’s 2013 season as the sixth best for any Major League first baseman, accruing 4.0 fWAAR.

The Braves’ Freddie Freeman — though eighteen months younger than Belt — is on a similar career path. Freeman’s 2013 OPS+ of 144 garnered him an All-Star spot and some MVP votes, and one of the larger contracts handed out to a pre-free agent player this off-season. Atlanta signed him to an eight-year, $135 million contract earlier this month.

Belt’s value — though not his park-adjusted OPS+ — may be hidden by the vastness of AT&T Park. The greatest stadium of all-time is playing as more of a pitcher’s park every season, depressing offensive totals in its confines. But even if park adjustments were completely mitigated, Belt would still a valuable commodity as the days of thumping first baseman creep farther into the distance.

The Giants would be smart to lock Belt up on a much cheaper deal than Freeman’s, giving a bit of cost certainty to what could be a perennial top-flight first baseman.

 

 

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