One of my favorite pastimes is to check out Facebook after young players sign one-year deals to avoid arbitration. Remember when Tim Lincecum was going year-to-year in arbitration? Good times.
So, yes, Brandon Belt is on a one-year deal. No, that doesn't mean this is his last year with the Giants. He's under team control through 2017, when he'll turn 29. Because the Giants sure love continuity, there's a good chance the two sides will talk about an extension before he gets close to free agency.
Except I have some devil's advocating to do. I love Brandon Belt. You love Brandon Belt. Remember when people used to prefer Brett Pill or (other random first baseman)? The CGI used in the Belt Wars already seems dated, and the whole era seems confusing. That's after his worst season since his rookie year, so you know he's entrenched. I'm looking forward to him getting even better over the next three years.
It's hard to see how an extension with Belt works, though, at least right now. Let me explain using some possible scenarios for the next three seasons.
Scenario #1: Belt struggles over the next year or two
In this scenario, the 2014 numbers didn't have anything to do with his wrist or his inability to get consistent at-bats before getting hurt again. That's just who Belt is, for whatever reason. There's a hole in his swing, or something, which I'm sure we would never hear about. The Giants love their own players, and they might keep trying this alternate-world Belt, even as his salary keeps going up in arbitration, but there wouldn't be a rush to extend him, for obvious reasons.
Scenario #2: Belt is okay over the next year or two
I like okay! It's better than bad. By definition. Okay is better than bad, literally by definition. Hi, I'm a professional writer.
In this scenario, Belt posts acceptable on-base percentages, hits between 10 and 20 dingers, and helps the Giants win more than lose. There are worse fates. But if that's the real Belt -- think J.T. Snow in his typical season -- that's also a poor candidate for an extension. This would be the kind of player who makes sense when there aren't better internal options, but not someone you want to keep around until he's 31, 32, or 33.
Not marriage material, in other words. They should literally play the field and look for better first basemen in this scenario. Literally play the field. Hi, I'm a
Scenario #3: Belt ascends and becomes a All-Star
Here be millions and millions of dollars. Remember, before last season, Freddie Freeman was a good comp for Belt, as both of them were young and coming off great seasons (Belt's OPS+ was 139, Freeman's was 147). Freeman got eight years and $135 million, and then he had another great year. Belt had a Schleprock year, at least until the postseason.
If Belt were to bounce back and have a year similar to 2013, or even better, he'd want more than just a big salary to give up his free agency. He'd want a long contract. He'd want five, six, maybe seven years. He wouldn't get the Votto, but he could still angle for that Freeman.
Belt at 30? Probably pretty good. 31? Okay, maybe still pretty good. 32? 33? 34? At star money? Man, I'd like to see what kind of seasons Belt would need to have for that to happen.
No, really. I'd like to see those seasons. And maybe once we're living through them, the idea of a long-term deal for Belt wouldn't be so absurd. For now, though, it's hard to see how Belt and the Giants are a perfect fit for an extension. If he's bad, the Giants won't have any interest. If he's okay, the Giants should be keeping an eye on a younger upgrade in three years. If he's the Brandon Belt we know he can be, that would mean paying a first baseman a lot of clams as he goes through his early 30s, which will eternally seem like a bad idea.
The good news? Three more years of Belt. We'll worry about the distant future when it gets here, but don't expect an extension in the near future, even if Belt has a bounceback season.