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Finding the middle ground of a Brandon Belt extension

What would a Brandon Belt contract extension look like? Probably a lot of words with a place for him to sign at the bottom.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The spring scuttlebutt from Andrew Baggarly is that Brandon Belt and the Giants are talking about a contract extension. The Giants have Belt for two more seasons, but there's at least a decent shot that he'll be good-to-excellent for at least four more seasons. The organization doesn't like to see those homegrown players have those good-to-excellent seasons in different uniforms, which is why they were chasing Pablo Sandoval until the very end.

Whew, is it hot in here? Just thinking about the Giants not missing out on Sandoval and, phew, it seems hot in here.

Regardless, that's the idea with Belt. He's homegrown, he helps the team win, and the non-weirdo fans seem to like him. The trick now is to find a middle ground on the price. First, let's check some comments under that Baggarly arti ...


Oh, no.

Another big one is never has hit 20HR / 70 RBIs and btw has never won a GG. Some of the Belt Fanboys / apologists on this blog have dreamt that he has so much they see it as concrete truth when in fact has been all a mirage.

Good points! Except for the all of it. We have to take his numbers out of 2015 AT&T Park and put them in a different context. Here's what his numbers would look like in a neutral park under 2000 offensive levels, using my favorite Baseball-Reference toy:

The reason I keep using those adjusted numbers is because most of us didn't start watching baseball three years ago, when offense went down. So it's useful to project what Belt might have been in another era, in another park. He would have been what the Giants thought J.T. Snow was, just much better. That player up there would have tickled our synapses and made us giddy. There wouldn't have been so many dumb arguments. It's why we tire of the dumb arguments today.

Belt's a valuable player. Here's FanGraphs suggesting that the Giants are better off at first base than 23 other teams. Belt is a huge part of that, and he'll be just 28 this season. Of course you try to lock that kind of player up.

I'll stand by my position that a Belt extension is not especially likely, just because injuries have robbed us all a chance to evaluate a full Belt season, and he'd like to have one of those before signing his one big contract. But it's still worth exploring what would make an extension work. It looks like there are two rules of a theoretical long-term contract with Brandon Belt and the Giants.

Rule #1: It would make you uncomfortable

Remember Brandon Crawford's extension? It was about half of what he would get on the open market, at least, and we're used to seeing Ian Kennedy and Mike Leake get that kind of money. In that context, it was hard to worry. And, trust me, I'm good at worrying.

Belt's contract wouldn't be like that. He's more than a year younger than the other Brandon, for one, so he'll want a longer contract. When it comes to snap-judging a contract as a fan, it's a lot easier to hear "six years, $75 million" than "seven years, $more millions," even though buying out four years of a 29-year-old's future free agency carries similar risks to buying out five years of 28-year-old's future free agency.

So if there's an extension, it will make you do a double-take. There might be nine figures. And it will go until Belt is old enough to decline, possibly deep into those years. There's no reason for him not to expect that kind of deal, and there are at least a couple reasons why the Giants would entertain the idea. Every free agent contract has some dud seasons built in at the end. I love Buster Posey as much as the next person the court has told not to express love for Buster Posey, but there's still a strong likelihood that he won't be worth $21.4 million as a 34-year-old catcher. Johnny Bench wasn't, after all. The Giants aren't expecting it. It was just the price of business.

Seven years, then. Oh, goodness, it would be worth it just to see the Belt-doubters take to the streets and flip some cars.

Rule #2: It would make Belt a little uncomfortable

Technically, it would make him extremely comfortable. It would make his kids extremely comfortable, and it would probably make his great-grandchildren extremely comfortable. But we're talking in the sense of Belt looking at the headlines when a big free agent signs in December, 2017 and thinking, "Oh, man, I totally could have been paid more than that doofus." He would have to risk that.

And considering that he's getting paid $6.2 million this year, and something like $9 or $10 million next year? The Giants have the leverage. Anything could happen to Belt over the next two years, and he knows it. That includes anything from becoming an All-Star or MVP candidate to getting five at-bats because of unexpected injuries. But anything could happen to the Giants, too, and that includes developing the first base equivalent of Matt Duffy or finding the next Aubrey Huff in the wild. They'll be eager, but not that eager, thank you. Their current competition is themselves.

The reason we weren't so flabbergasted by Crawford's extension is because they included those arb-eligible years in the total. He was guaranteed to be underpaid because the system is rigged, man, and the final contract total reflected that. Belt's contract would be the same way.

So slap the two rules together, and what do you get? Something like Crawford's deal, with a year thrown on top because Belt is younger, and a dollar amount that's a little more than expected. I'll guess seven years, $100 million, which would be about $16 million per year after this season's $6.2 million. The length would make us uncomfortable (not wild about the idea of being tethered financially to a 34-year-old Belt, even as a rabid, emotional fan), and there would be the sticker shock of the $100 million total, but the annual dollars would be reasonable.

The increased chatter is making me think the idea is possible, at least. Don't worry about where to put Posey in a few years. You know, there was one game in college when he played all n