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.