Brandon Belt is reportedly going to need knee surgery in the off-season. The Giants know this, as they haven’t been playing him and have told the press about his likely need for the surgery. So my question is, why wait?
It’s a lost season. Buster Posey has already ended his season to have hip surgery after a questionable delay that may have included concerns about salary and organizational depth in the catching position - neither of which seemed like good reasons to hold off, but I guess they thought they might still be in this thing. They were not. And Posey ultimately got his surgery.
So, what’s the difference with Belt? If this injury is hindering his ability to play well (and if you look at his numbers for the last couple of months, I would argue that it is) then why hold off on the surgery?
Bruce Bochy said they are still hoping he will get his swing going this season, and Chris Haft over at MLB.com reports:
Belt likely will remain with the Giants through the rest of the season, if only because Austin Slater, who’s primarily an outfielder, is the club’s lone position player who has meaningful experience playing first.
But he isn’t even playing regularly. He was scratched from Saturday’s game with knee pain, he only entered Sunday’s game due to Ryder Jones’ injury, he struck out twice in his start on Monday and was only a pinch hitter last night. He’s not right and I think everyone knows it. His .158 batting average/.213 on base percentage and .228 slugging percentage over his last 30 games are a big red flag.
It’s not as though they need him to stay competitive or even field a team. Bochy has finally admitted that the team is out of contention and they don’t have a lack of players who can play first base. Austin Slater and Chase d’Arnaud have both played first base this year, and Chris Shaw and even Aramís Garcia have played some in the minors.
Hell, throw a first baseman’s glove at Madison Bumgarner on his non-start days and I’m pretty sure he’d be able to figure it out. The point isn’t that they need someone who is particularly good or even experienced at the position right now, they just need to field a team to finish the year. That doesn’t seem too hard.
They should not be starting Belt or playing him from the bench when he is hurt. There is literally no point in doing so. It’s not like he’s going to have a sudden bounce-back resurgence to his performance this spring and put up career numbers while he’s injured. There are two and a half weeks left in the season and, you know, he’s injured.
Additionally, this is somewhat of a signal that they aren’t intending to trade Belt in the off-season. If they were, they would not be advertising his injury because it would reduce his trade value. However, Belt does have a partial no-trade clause so it is possible that was never really an option anyway.
Either way, if their intention is to have Belt be the 2019 starting first baseman, then allowing him to get an early jump on the surgery he needs will help ensure that he will be at full strength to do so when spring training arrives. Delaying it, in my opinion, just seems senseless.