SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants traveled to Seattle to open the 2021 season, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt joined Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal as the second trio of teammates in franchise history to start in the same Opening Day lineup together nine times in their careers.
This year’s Opening Day start seemed almost certain to be the last Posey, Crawford and Belt would enjoy together.
Posey began this season as the only member of the trio with a club option for 2022, but at $22 million, it was unrealistic to think the Giants would consider exercising it for a player who had undergone major hip surgery in 2018, posted career-lows at the plate in 2019 and then sat out in 2020.
Crawford, 34, was the oldest shortstop in the league and was set to become a free agent among a group of high-profile shortstops that includes Astros star Carlos Correa, Dodgers slugger Corey Seager and Rockies power-hitter Trevor Story.
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Belt, 33, was coming off one of the best seasons of his career, but he too was set to hit free agency and the Giants would be presented with an opportunity to turn a page and build around a new core.
Seven months after the season began, Crawford has already signed an extension, Posey is almost certain to return to the Giants if he wants to continue his career and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi spoke about Belt on Monday as if re-signing the first baseman was one of the team’s most urgent priorities.
“You could talk about his value both in how he played down the stretch and how much we missed him once he went down,” Zaidi said. “He’s a really, really important part of this team.”
Belt’s career-high 29 home runs led the Giants, but due to several injuries including a sprained knee and a fractured thumb, the Texas native only played 97 games for the club this year. Belt’s lengthy injury history makes committing to an extension a risky endeavor for the Giants’ front office, but Zaidi and Scott Harris also recognize that Belt has begun to thrive under manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff.
Since the start of the 2020 season, Belt’s 163 wRC+ (a park-adjusted stat measuring runs created) ranks third in the majors among batters with 500-plus plate appearances behind Juan Soto of the Nationals (171) and Bryce Harper of the Phillies (164). During that same timeframe, Belt’s .595 slugging percentage is second only to Padres star Fernando Tatís Jr. (.598).
“He’s happy here, I think he feels really appreciated,” Zaidi said. “And we appreciate him. He’s been one of the best hitters in baseball over the last couple of years. So yeah, he’s a big part of this team and we’ll certainly hope those are productive dialogues.”
Before Belt was hit by a pitch on Sept. 26 that fractured his thumb and kept him off of the Giants’ NLDS roster, he spoke to the Bay Area News Group about his career in San Francisco and his long-standing friendship with Crawford and Posey. The first baseman acknowledged that a return to the Giants wasn’t necessarily in his control, but said he would certainly be open to a reunion this winter.
“This has been home for me for 10 years and I’d love to hang around,” Belt said. “I’d love to be a Giant.”
Zaidi said the Giants had dialogue with Belt’s agent during the season and will continue to do so in the near future, but if the two sides are unable to quickly negotiate a new contract, the team has a way of gaining a bit of leverage.
Belt is eligible to receive a qualifying offer, which is a one-year deal worth $18.4 million that must be extended five days after the World Series ends. If Belt were to receive a qualifying offer from the Giants, he would have 10 days to accept or decline, but a decision to decline would mean that any team that ultimately signed Belt would forfeit a high draft pick.
Some teams have been reluctant to sign free agents who have a qualifying offer attached to them, but the process of extending offers has generally worked well for the Giants under Zaidi. The Giants received compensatory draft choices after pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith declined qualifying offers and signed with other clubs while starter Kevin Gausman agreed to return to San Francisco on a qualifying offer for the 2021 season.
“The qualifying offer decision, we’ll have to think more about,” Zaidi said. “I’m sure we’ll have some conversations with his representation.”
Source : https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/10/19/sf-giants-brandon-belt-have-mutual-interest-in-a-reunion960