As spring training steadily approaches, the San Francisco Giants must now turn their attention to a band of players that have officially filed for salary arbitration. All five Giants eligible for arbitration filed a claim this week. The most notable player on that list is slugging first baseman Brandon Belt, who posted the best numbers of his three-year career last season.
Belt is a super-two player, which means he’s eligible for salary arbitration with less than three full seasons of big league experience. The Giants could explore the possibility of signing Belt to a long-term extension in order to avoid annual negotiations with a player who’s considered to be a franchise cornerstone.
Belt made approximately $531,500 in 2013, according to Baseball Prospectus. That number will likely quadruple this season, giving the Giants incentive to sign the 22-year-old to a lengthy contract. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo owns a comparable could-be contract at seven-years and $41 million. Rizzo was also a super-two player, indicating that Belt could earn an ascending contract similar to what the Cubs’ star-studded first baseman earned.
In 358 big league games, Belt has registered a .798 OPS with 116 extra-base hits and 141 RBI. He’s projected to be the Giants’ No. 3 hitter in 2014, making him a staple in the middle of the lineup.
Other arbitration-eligible players include speedy outfielder Gregor Blanco, utility man Joaquin Arias, infielder Tony Abreu and right-handed pitcher Yusmeiro Petit. Each of these cases appear relatively straight-forward, considering that none of the aforementioned players are expected to net a multiyear contract.
Blanco has been the biggest contributor of the Giants’ leftovers. He’s been respectably productive in two full seasons with the Giants while showcasing steady improvement. Blanco posted a .350 on-base percentage with 50 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in 2013. He earned $1.35 million after avoiding arbitration last offseason, and now he figures to earn a contract in the $2 million range.
Arias is similarly crucial to the Giants’ success. He earned $925,000 in 2013 while registering a .271 batting average in 225 official at-bats. He’ll likely earn a deal worth in excess of $1.5 million, depending on the middle-ground between what the Giants offer in comparison to what his agent asks for.
Abreu is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. He was moderately productive for the Giants off the bench in 2013, posting a .442 slugging percentage in 138 official at-bats. Abreu earned less than $500,000 last season but figures to earn nearly double that in 2014.
Petit could potentially contend for a roster spot as the Giants’ long-man in spring training and is also arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. The journeyman pitcher enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2013, posting a 4-1 record with a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings of work. He memorably came within one out of pitching a perfect game last September. Petit could earn a deal near the $1 million marker, but that decision rides on whether the Giants perceive him as a contributor in the upcoming season.
The next step in the arbitration process is for players and teams to exchange proposals on one-year offers. After that stage of the process is complete, compromise will ensue. If settlements aren’t reached before Feb. 1, pending cases will be heard by an arbitration panel who will dictate the sum of a player’s 2014 salary.