At this current moment, New York Yankees fans have no idea who will be starting at first base once 2022 arrives.
Anthony Rizzo is no lock to return given the amount of money he’ll likely command, and it cannot be denied the team soured its relationship with Luke Voit after how he was handled during the second half of the season.
We’re not saying it’s likely, but it’s very much possible neither of those sluggers will be on the roster when spring training kicks off.
Just as an insurance exercise, should we look into some potential options outside of the incumbent ones at the moment? Can’t hurt!
Great, here are your choices:
- Freddie Freeman (not happening)
- Mitch Moreland
- Travis Shaw
- Brandon Belt
Let’s talk about the last name on this list, because his situation with the San Francisco Giants is one to monitor.
Here’s what Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area wrote on Belt’s situation with San Fran:
"“The Giants and Belt spoke about an extension during the season but talks didn’t go anywhere. Both sides want a reunion, though, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find common ground. The Giants might decide early on this winter that their best path is to bring Belt back, let Bryant and Scott Boras wait out the market, and use their leftover resources to bolster the pitching staff.”"
OK. Let’s look at this for a moment. Earlier in the same article Pavlovic suggested the qualifying offer for Belt, which would pay him $18.4 million. That seems … insane? Doesn’t it? Belt will be entering his age-34 season in 2022 and missed 65 games this past year. The Giants would be that desperate to keep him if they can’t come to an agreement on a contract? He’s certainly more valuable to San Francisco, as their de facto captain, than he would be to any other team, but…they’d really leave it up to expensive chance?
The Giants do have money to spend, but that feels like an excessive commitment for an aging player who was showing signs of a stark decline from 2017-2019 before coming back to life these last two years.
Let’s say the Giants can’t come to an agreement on a new deal with Belt and opt to forgo the QO. Should the Yankees be interested here? Belt’s lefty power would be a tremendous asset at Yankee Stadium and his last 148 games suggest he could be a worthwhile fit on a two- or three-year deal with the Bombers.
Even more encouraging? He hits for average when he’s producing. His career mark is .264, but in his best campaigns he’s mostly hit from anywhere between .275 and .290. Belt fits the current window the Yankees are trying to keep open (within the next 2-3 years) and provides the necessary traits to elevate this lineup that lacked balance and diversification.
Additionally, for his career, he’s a plus defender, having accumulated 49 Defensive Runs Saved at first base. He’s somewhere in between Voit and Rizzo … and is actually more comparable to Rizzo if you look at these career numbers:
- Belt – .264 average, 823 OPS, 125 OPS+, 49 DRS, 31.3 UZR
- Rizzo – .268 average, .850 OPS, 127 OPS+, 71 DRS, 36.2 UZR
Don’t let the DRS numbers cloud your judgement, either, because Belt played 55 games in the outfield from 2015-2019. It’s not a whole lot, but it definitely kept him from, say, getting into the 50s for that statistic.
If the Yankees plan to be open-minded and the Giants feel the need to go in a different direction or spend big on pitching and/or Kris Bryant, this scenario really isn’t out of the question. At least keep it on your radar because Belt’s skills and postseason experience align with what this team requires at the moment.