The San Francisco Giants were able to work out a deal with first baseman Brandon Belt late Tuesday night, allowing the team to continue their streak of avoiding arbitration hearings since 2004. Belt got a one-year, $2.9 million-dollar deal, which falls between the $2.05 million that the team offered and the $3.6 million that Belt asked for.
Purely from a symbolic standpoint, it’s great that Belt was able to work out a deal Tuesday. Had he stayed in St. Petersburg, Florida for his arbitration hearing on Wednesday morning, he would have missed the squad’s first official workout— not necessarily the best look for a player who’s coming off his first really impressive season.
Hopefully with Belt having reached a suitable agreement, he will be able to devote all of his attention to delivering a full consistent season in 2014. Despite Belt’s .289 average and career-high marks in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage during 2013, he still had some struggles. Belt had a horrid month of July, hitting .225 with only five RBI and committing an error at first base that cost the Giants a late-July contest against the Chicago Cubs. This game really ended up being one of the negative turning points in the Giants’ disappointing season. Instead, Belt needs to play more like he did in the season’s last two months, when he hit .346 with seven home runs and 28 RBI.
While it may not have been exactly what he wanted, Belt definitely made the right PR move by settling with the Giants before arbitration. He’s a player who is widely respected in sabermetric circles because of his patience at the plate, fielding ability, and high WAR value, but he has not been consistent enough thus far to win over most common fans. By not entering into a court-mediated dispute with the Giants, Belt gives off the impression that he realizes he still has something to prove, rather than making it look like he thinks he’s already a star. Hopefully Belt can do his part on the field this year to make sure he earns whatever salary he wants in 2015.