It's arbitration season! And here's your yearly reminder that the Giants never, never, never like to go to arbitration with their players. The last time they did it was with A.J. Pierzynski, craven pig-man, and they've regretted it since. That written, the Giants are pretty far apart with one of their two remaining arbitration-eligible players.
First, we have George Kontos, who had a fine season and is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career. According to Jon Heyman, the Giants offered Kontos a $850,000 salary, with Kamp Kontos countering with a $1.35 million salary. The midpoint is $1.1 million, just above the MLB Trade Rumors projection of $1 million. I would bet on a Brandon Crawford/Pablo Sandoval trade before betting on an arbitration case. A deal will get done, probably right at the midpoint.
That brings up the case of Brandon Belt, confusing and productive full-time player. Even with the injuries (mostly not his fault, remember), Belt has been a fine, valuable player over the last four seasons. But it's still hard to gauge his true value, or what his value might be on the open market.
The Giants offered him $5.3 million, with Belt countering with $7.5 million. That's a hefty difference, albeit not as severe as other cases around the league. The midpoint is $6.4 million, and the MLB Trade Rumors estimate was $6.2 million.
Last year, the two sides were $1.5 million apart. The gap is growing, but last year they settled for $250,000 below the midpoint and $100,000 above the MLB Trade Rumors estimate. It would still be a stunner if they went to arbitration, so don't freak out yet. The Giants will keep their streak of avoiding arbitration alive, leaving Pierzynski, chinless goblin, as a head on a pike to discourage future arbitration battles.
Gregor Blanco was arbitration-eligible last year, and it made gobs of sense for him to sign a two-year deal to avoid being arbitration-eligible this year, too. That's what happened. While I could see something similar for Kontos (three years, $8 million, and hope for repeat seasons), there's almost no way this will end with an extension for Belt. He would be selling low if he settled for an extension now, and yet the Giants are right to wonder just how good Belt really is.
It would be one thing to give Belt $90 million if there weren't an All-Star catcher getting closer to 30 behind him, but ... well, there's an All-Star catcher getting closer to 30 behind him. The Giants aren't going to move Buster Posey to first soon, but they're right to be wary about giving a five- or six-year deal to any first baseman right now. Not unless they absolutely have to.
Which means the Giants will wait and see with Belt this year, and they'll probably do the same next year. There's no reason to panic on either side. Let the way of the world reveal itself in the crystal ball over the next 18 months or so.
This has been your arbitration update. You may resume thinking about anything other than the potential salaries of arbitration-eligible baseball players.