What's next for the Giants after losing Belt?

January 13th, 2023

The Giants will sail into the 2023 season without their self-proclaimed team captain, as first baseman Brandon Belt’s 12-year run with the organization came to an end after he agreed to a one-year, $9.3 million deal with the Blue Jays on Tuesday.  

Belt’s departure leaves shortstop  as the only remaining link to the Giants’ championship era and bookends one of the most successful careers by a homegrown player in recent history. A 2009 fifth-round Draft pick, Belt developed into an All-Star first baseman who won two World Series titles with the Giants in 2012 and ‘14 and later embraced a leadership role by leaning into the captain schtick he invented in 2021. 

Known for his dry sense of humor and selective approach at the plate, the “Baby Giraffe” posted a .356 on-base percentage over his 1,310 games with the Giants, though he missed significant time with persistent injuries.

Belt slugged a career-high 29 home runs while emerging as the best hitter on the 107-win Giants in 2021, but his season came to a premature end after he broke his left thumb on a bunt attempt in late September. The injury cost Belt a chance to contribute to another postseason run in October, when he memorably hit a decisive 18th-inning home run in Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series against the Nationals.

Belt, 34, returned to the Giants on an $18.4 million qualifying offer last year, but he struggled to overcome his chronic right knee issues, which forced him to undergo season-ending surgery in September. 

President of operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants were in touch with Belt’s camp earlier in the offseason and visited him recently to see how his rehab was going, though a reunion never materialized.

“Certainly, at a personal and emotional level, I’m sorry to see him go,” Zaidi said Thursday during a Zoom call with reporters. “He obviously had a great run in the organization. It was a little bit of a timing and fit issue for us.”

With and joining the Giants’ outfield this offseason, is projected to see more time at first base to help fill the void left by Belt. Wade, 29, is coming off a down season, but Zaidi said the Giants remain “really high” on him following his breakout campaign in 2021, when he recorded an .808 OPS with 18 homers. and  could see time at first base as well, though Zaidi didn’t rule out the possibility of adding another bat to the mix to increase competition.

By moving on from veterans like Belt and third baseman Evan Longoria, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the D-backs last week, Zaidi said the Giants will have the ability to give more opportunities to younger players like Wade and infielder  in 2023.

“We think they bring a lot of upside, and it led to some difficult decisions about a couple of veterans we really like,” Zaidi said. “We really just wish Brandon the best. Having seen him a couple of weeks ago, I actually think he's doing pretty well physically. But we're looking forward to what LaMonte and other guys in that mix can do for us.”

Zaidi also sent well wishes to star shortstop Carlos Correa, whose free-agent saga took one last unexpected twist when he re-signed with the Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal earlier this week. Correa landed back with Minnesota after the Mets and Giants both backed out of agreements due to concerns about the long-term health of his surgically repaired right ankle. 

Zaidi said he “had a couple of conversations” with Correa’s camp after the two-time All-Star’s 12-year, $315 million agreement with the Mets hit a snag, but he got the impression that “they had other things they were more focused on.” 

Correa ultimately settled on a contract significantly below the Giants’ original 13-year, $350 million offer, though Zaidi said he didn’t feel any vindication after watching a second team get spooked by a medical issue that was first flagged by San Francisco. 

“I’m happy for Carlos,” Zaidi said. “He’s one of the great players in the game. He seems happy with where he’s going. I think this whole situation was really unfortunate and way more public than it should be if things are running in an ideal way. We’re going to stick to our process. The only vindication that we’re seeking and that we put any credibility in is being a good team on the field. That’s our focus right now.”