Nothing makes me feel older than Pablo Sandoval coming up on the last year of his contract. He just came up! He was just a li'l 21-year-old goblin, he was! He was going to be with the Giants forever …
Six years already? Goodness. When Sandoval came up, the Giants hadn't developed an All-Star hitter since Matt Williams. His reign at third coincided with two championships. You'd think that combination would have resulted in a mega-extension (or mini-mega extension, at least) at one point, but there were always extenuating circumstances. Down years, freak injuries, understated concerns about his physical appearance … there was always something, and the extension talks never came up.
This brings us to Brandon Belt, who's a "super-two", which sounds like one of those made up "imaginary numbers" that mathematicians invented to confuse the rest of us. It means that Belt has accumulated two years of service time and ranked in the top 22 percent of all two-year players when it comes to service time.
But I thought we were always complaining about his playing time …
Regardless, the particulars aren't as important. What it really means is that the Giants have one fewer year of dollar-store Belt. They have to pay him a decent amount of money this year. It also means that next year's salary, which should have been his first year of arbitration, will be based in part on the 2014 salary. So for the next four years, Belt's salary will be noticeably more than if he weren't a super-two player.
Also, one of these days, we'll have the same wait-six-years feeling with Belt that we do with Pablo right now. They grow up so fast.
As MLB Trade Rumors notes today, Belt is a candidate for an extension. I'm not sure if the Giants are really interested in keeping their own players around, but let's assume they might -- might -- have an organizational philosophy that's based on giving extensions to current players. What would Belt get?
A list of extensions that might compare, with help from MLBTR's extension tracker:
- Anthony Rizzo, seven years, $41 million, two team options
- Allen Craig, five years, $31 million, one team option
- Paul Goldschmidt, five years, $32 million, one team option
- Billy Butler, four years, $30 million, one team option
The first three were signed in the spring of 2013. Butler's was in January, 2011. He's not the best comp for Belt, especially since he had over three years of service time, and he's more of a DH, but it doesn't hurt to include it.
Still, focus on the first three guys. Rizzo's deal came after his first full season, when he hit .285/.342/.463 in 337 at-bats. He was 22. After considering the options, the deal could buy out three years of free agency.
Craig was already 27 when he signed the extension, but his service time was comparable to Belt's. He's a more accomplished hitter than Belt, but a clomper afield. The deal could buy out two years of free agency with the option.
Goldschmidt is probably the best comp when it comes to age -- he's just a few months older than Belt -- and he was coming off a season with 20 homers and a 126 OPS+ when he signed his extension. Belt had 17 homers and a 142 OPS+ (!) last year. Goldschmidt's deal bought out a potential two years of free agency.
A difference between the two, though, is that Belt's already a super-two. He has more guaranteed money coming to him than Goldschmidt did. That makes Belt more like Craig, except for the age. Which makes Belt more like Rizzo, except for the age and service time.
Belt's kind of an amalgam of the three, then. He has the service time and negotiating power of Craig and the relative promise of what Rizzo showed after 2012, and he's coming off a season like Goldschmidt's 2012. It's also a year later, and players are more expensive.
Here's one guess at what an extension for Belt would look like, then:
Five years, $42 million, one team option
2014: $2.5 million
2015: $5.5 million
2016: $10 million
2017: $10 million
2018: $12 million
2019: option for $14.5 million, $2 million buyout
Isn't cute how I pull these numbers out of my nether regions? But it's a guess and it follows the basic framework of the other deals, starting small, ending big, with a substantial option at the end. If you're yelling about Belt being more expensive than the superior Goldschmidt, you're missing the point. Belt is already in arbitration, Goldschmidt wasn't. Also, Goldschmidt became Super Goldschmidt after the extension. His extension would look much different if it were done today.
If you think that's too much for Belt, well, you're going to get something close to that without arbitration, except you won't get the 2018 guarantee that Belt is still here, nor will you get the option for 2019. It sure would be nice to have a guaranteed Sandoval for next year and an option for his services after that, no? It would save the Giants a lot of headaches. Alas.
I'll guess the Giants are working on something creative. There are three pretty decent comps from last year, so it's not like Belt's agent is going to feel like he's taking some bold, industry-bucking risk.
The Belt Wars have been over for a few months. It's time to look toward the future. And I'm pretty convinced that future will have Belt at first. The Giants are probably convinced, too. Let's avoid the Pablo situation.
This kind of contract would help the Giants ...
... tighten their Belt for the future.