It has already been argued that Brandon Belt is not the Giants offense’s problem, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with that. Brandon Belt is an above average Major League hitter with good defense, but for some that is not enough. So in order to explore the opportunities to try to improve for the long term, we ought to look at the players who rank above him and what it would take to get them.
Free Agent Eligible: 2016
Davis has age on his side. At just 27, his future certainly looks bright. You have to salivate watching him hit home runs. But with his offensive explosion this season, there is no chance the Orioles trade him for anything less than an offer that included Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt plus prospects. This would solidify the first base position but open a gaping hole in the rotation. In addition, it would be making a big bet that his current season is not a fluke.
There is also the option of potentially waiting for free-agency in a few more seasons. His price would depend on the next two years, and there should be plenty of willing suitors. If he were to hit free agency, the Giants would be at a disadvantage because left handed sluggers not named Barry Bonds hate AT&T park.
Outlook: It would take a lot to get him, and it would also be a huge gamble on his current success continuing.
Free Agent Eligible: 2019
Goldschmidt is probably what many wish Belt could be: a true, mashing first baseman. That being said, there is essentially no way that the Giants could figure out a way to acquire him. He looks like the cornerstone of that franchise. With five more seasons of team control, free agency is too far off to think about for this exercise.
Outlook: Ain’t happening
Free Agent Eligible: 2024
There is a chance that the Reds will want out from under Votto’s contract and be willing to trade him. But this is probably well down the road, when he is a shell of himself — perhaps when he is no longer hitting for power, but is still getting on base frequently. If the Giants want to find a long term upgrade to Belt, the latter years of Votto’s contract are not likely going to be the ones to trade for.
Outlook: Probably wouldn’t want him by the time the Reds are willing to part with him.
Free Agent Eligible: 2016 (Blue Jays hold option)
He did this against Tim Lincecum, so we know he can hit at AT&T Park. At age 30 this season, however, it would require that the Giants make a trade for him now. But, his slugging comes at a cost: Defense. Simply put, Encarnacion is not a good defender, and his natural position as DH would be wasted in the National League.
His age, relative short track record of success and the fact that the Toronto is 11.5 games back mean the Jays wouldn’t slam the phone when his name was brought up in trade talks. But his salary-friendly contract means he is producing a lot of surplus value that the Giants would need to compensate the team for.
The other big red flag is that I would be nervous trading with Alex Anthopoulos given that he always seems to be on the winning side of these trades. Perhaps they can make a trade work out with Belt, plus a couple top tier prospects.
Outlook: He is probably available, but the cost is high and he is no longer in his 20’s.
Free Agent Eligible: 2018 (Cardinals hold option)
Craig has quietly become one of the better hitters in baseball. This year, he became a full-time player and made his first All-Star team. He isn’t a great defender, but he is a very good hitter. At 28, he is right in the middle of his baseball prime.
The problem from a Giants perspective is that his contract is very good for the Cardinals, and he will not become a free agent until 2018 at the earliest. To trade for him, the package would need to be even better than the one that would get Encarnacion. My trade ideas are not on the LOLKNBRCallers level, but they would probably include both Brandons, plus a couple prospect kickers.
Outlook: The Cardinals would be reluctant to trade him and the price would be very high.
The rest of the first basemen around the league are much older and most likely not long term upgrades over Belt. Or they have simply not been as good as Belt this year — Let me know if there is anyone in particular you want me to take a look at in the comments.
When you take a look at what is available next year in free agency, there really isn’t a great long term upgrade either. Mike Naploi? James Loney? Justin Morneau? None of these are long term solutions or upgrades. And, after taking a look at what it would take to get a long term improvement via trade, I would not be willing to pay the price to acquire any of them.
So I guess barring some unforeseen risk taking by Brian Sabean the Giants are sticking with Belt for the next few years.
I don’t really have a problem with that. With Belt’s age, there is still room for him to improve so don’t give up hope.