Brandon Belt has played his last game of the season. That much we know. What we don’t know is if Belt has played his last game as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Belt last played on August 20 before being shut down for the year as he dealt with swelling in his knee, and eventually underwent surgery. It put the cap on a rather dismal season for him, in which he was plagued by knee issues and COVID, and didn’t hit nearly up to his standards, with the lowest batting average and slugging percentage of his career, by a mile.
With free agency approaching, there have been questions as to whether Belt might hang up his very large cleats. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.
The 2016 All-Star and two-time champion was in the broadcast booth with Kruk and Kuip during the Giants Wednesday victory over the Atlanta Braves. He made it very clear that he wants to keep playing baseball, and that his knee — which had loose cartilage removed from it less than two weeks ago — is feeling great.
Brandon Belt said his knee feels great after surgery and he’s very optimistic about it. He certainly sounds like he would like to play again. “I know I have a lot left in me and that’s what I want to show everybody,” he said.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 14, 2022
But Belt doesn’t just want to play. He wants to play for the only team he’s known. The team that he’s played all 12 of his MLB seasons with. The team that drafted him in 2009.
Despite the Giants being in a weird place where they can’t decide whether to rebuild or compete. Despite the fanbase not always appreciating the giraffe that’s in front of them. Despite Oracle Park being a place where left-handed hitters go to be reminded that life isn’t fair.
Despite all of that, Belt made it abundantly clear that returning to the Giants is his priority.
Brandon Belt on his future: “There’s really nowhere else I want to play. We’ll see what happens. It’s a business, you know, stuff happens. I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is I’m going to get as strong as I can and get ready to play baseball next year.”— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 14, 2022
The Giants may be trying to get younger, but if they believe Belt is healthy, then re-signing him starts to look smart. With Darin Ruf gone and LaMonte Wade Jr. looking like a player who needs to prove a heck of a lot if he wants to make next year’s roster, the Giants are in need of first basemen, and the farm isn’t offering any immediate solutions. And sure, Wilmer Flores and David Villar can hold things down, but the Giants prefer to use the former as a positionless rover, and the latter as a third baseman.
And for a team that only has 69 home runs (nice?) by lefties this year — and only 20 from lefties who are locks for next year’s roster — some left-handed power would be welcome.
But while Belt clearly wants to stay in San Francisco, he also knows his worth. He may have had a tough year, but by wRC+ (minimum 500 plate appearances), only two players in all of baseball hit better than the Captain in 2020 and 2021: last year’s MVP, Bryce Harper, and last year’s runner-up, Juan Soto.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, Belt was transparent that he would not sign a Minor League deal. Alluding to a contract on the smaller side, Belt stated that, “I don’t know how to say it, but you can’t really go play for nothing.”
There’s plenty of room in between a camp deal and something that pays him to hit like he did in 2021, when he smashed 29 home runs in 97 games. And the Giants have plenty of room on their payroll to break out the checkbook for a franchise legend, and flip the coin on him having the type of season that could drive another run to the postseason.
Both my heart and my head would like to see Belt back next year, though others will understandably feel differently. For his part, Belt was open about the possibility that his Giants career may be over, and took a moment to highlight the majestic talent of Kruk and Kuip.
What time do the Giants play today?
The Giants have their penultimate off day of the 2022 season today, ahead of their final Beat LA series.