Before we begin, I need to disclose my biases regarding Brandon Belt. I’m a Giants fan, and he’s been one of my favorite players over the last decade. I want him to re-sign with the Giants so badly that to manifest a reunion, I am taking minutes out of each and every day to artistically depict his most iconic moments on and off the field. Here’s Brandon Belt meeting a giraffe that was supposed to have smoky giraffe eyes but instead looks kind of miffed about the whole thing.
I badly draw Brandon Belt every day until the Giants re-sign him— Kenny Kelly (@KennyKellyWords) November 8, 2021
Day 6 pic.twitter.com/bcOEfWF8LB
Here’s Brandon Belt recording the final out of Matt Cain’s perfect game while trying to grow a beard.
I badly draw Brandon Belt every day until the Giants re-sign him.— Kenny Kelly (@KennyKellyWords) November 7, 2021
Day 5 pic.twitter.com/NuSC8OZG3v
Here’s Brandon Belt with his good friend Brandon Crawford who is gazing into the abyss while the abyss gazes back into him.
I badly draw Brandon Belt every day until the Giants re-sign him.— Kenny Kelly (@KennyKellyWords) November 6, 2021
Day 4 pic.twitter.com/npZvbhhlTw
I started this series before Buster Posey announced his retirement, so my emotions are a little raw. The Giants extended Belt a qualifying offer, and the folk at MLB Trade Rumors seem pretty assured he’ll take it, but they also think Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo are better options, so what the hell do they know?
Qualifying offers are usually taken by players who have something to prove. Marcus Stroman took one last year after opting out to show that he was still a great starter. Kevin Gausman took one to prove that 2020 wasn’t a fluke. At 34, I’m not sure what else Belt has to prove other than he can stay healthy long enough to qualify for the batting title, but now’s as good a time as any to try to cash in. He’s a solid defender with a career 12.1 walk rate and a lot of recent success at the plate.
He’s had one below-average year at the plate, 2019, but it took a lot of bad luck to bring him down. I spent most of my tenure at McCovey Chronicles calmly explaining that Belt was still good, he was just getting murdered by Oracle Park. In 2019, he barreled the ball 35 times which tied him with Joc Pederson. That year, the league slugged 2.821 on barrels. Belt, however, slugged only 1.794. Belt had more of his barrels turn into outs than any other player with at least 25 barrels, and that’s because his home ballpark swallowed his would-be doubles and homers. His 8.3 barrel percentage was a career-low, so he engineered his bad luck to an extent, but this still cost him over 60 points of slugging at one point.
The Giants moved the fences in before the season began in 2020, and wouldn’t you know, Belt’s been one of the five best hitters in the majors since then. Among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances since the start of the pandemic-shortened season, Belt’s 163 wRC+ ranks fourth behind only Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, and Mike Trout. Belt’s also been barreling the ball in around 17 percent of his plate appearances, so that certainly helps.
I was being glib earlier, but I could see Belt simply accepting the qualifying offer. I think he’s worth more than one year, $18.4 million, but I’m hardly impartial. I could also see Belt taking the qualifying offer and then renegotiating an extension similar to what José Abreu did after the 2019 season. I could also see him rejecting it and re-signing with the Giants anyway. I GUESS BELT COULD ALSO REJECT IT AND SIGN WITH A TEAM THAT IS NOT THE GIANTS.
I know I just listed every possibility, but I’m not in the business of making predictions. If the Giants don’t keep Belt, they’d be losing their captain, but they’re not exactly hosed. Darin Ruf has a 143 wRC+ since the start of 2020, and he’d be getting most of the starts. With the Giants, the impulse is to think that Ruf’s numbers are inflated because they kept him away from righties. That’s true to an extent, but he still had a .357 wOBA when at a platoon disadvantage this year. Ruf was a big reason why Giants first basemen led the majors in homers and fWAR.
Unless they can figure out what’s eating Keston Hiura, the Brewers have room to improve at first even with their surplus of beef lords. Rowdy Tellez is a sight to behold when he’s hot, but he hasn’t shown he can be productive over a full season. The same can be said of Daniel Vogelbach. Milwaukee’s in dire need of offense, and Belt would supply it without skimping on defense.
With Schwarber doesn’t return to the Red Sox, Boston is looking at Bobby Dalbec as their Opening Day starter. Dalbec has plenty of power, but he also owns a 35.8 percent strikeout rate. Dalbec would provide a right-handed counterpart as a platoon allowing Belt to rest against tough lefties.
The rest of the baseball world seems convinced that Belt will accept the qualifying offer, so maybe you should listen to them. I certainly wouldn’t mind if that happened even if it means I have to find a new schtick.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords to see more flawless depictions of Brandon Kyle Belt.