Brandon Belt watched in recent years as the Giants locked up key homegrown players like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford with long-term extensions. Belt saw Joe Panik and Matt Duffy emerge from the Giants’ system as budding young infielders who will remain under the team’s control for years.
“Just the fact that you’re going to have a lot of the core guys here for such a long time, I definitely wanted to be here as long as they were,” Belt said. “I think if we have this group together, we have a chance to win a lot of ballgames.”
Belt will get that chance in San Francisco after signing a five-year contract extension on Saturday that could pay him $79 million over the next six seasons and keep him a Giant through 2021.
Posey and Crawford also are signed through 2021, and Giants vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said he sees Belt’s extension as rounding out a “core group” of position players that he likened to that of the New York Yankees in 1990s. The Giants won three World Series from 2010 through 2014 largely on the strength of their pitching but now believe they have a deep, potent lineup that will stay together for the next several years.
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“We hope this gives us more opportunities for the kind of success we’ve had in the past,” Sabean said.
Belt’s new contract is similar to the six-year, $75 million extension Crawford signed in November. Belt will still make the $6.2 million figure this season agreed upon during arbitration in November. He will make $8.8 in 2017, including a $6 million signing bonus, then $16 million over the deal’s final four seasons. A limited no-trade clause kicks in starting next year, allowing Belt to choose 10 teams each season to which he cannot be traded.
General manager Bobby Evans said the sides were near an agreement before Opening Day but were delayed by travel and events following the end of spring training. Evans said they came to terms with Belt’s camp on Friday, and the team announced the deal before Saturday’s game against the Dodgers.
“I appreciate all the hard work that went into this, and to say I’m excited and grateful is really an understatement,” Belt said. “I think I’ve matured and grown a lot over the past five years or so, and a lot of that, if not all of it, is due to this organization. … I have a lot of growing left to do, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other place except for here.”
Evans and Sabean said the Giants valued Belt’s hitting and defense. He set career highs last season with 18 home runs and 68 RBIs despite playing in just 137 games because of a late concussion, and he has a career on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .803 – a statistic Evans cited in Saturday’s news conference.
Defensively, Belt was a finalist for the Gold Glove last season and ranked first among National League first basemen with a .997 fielding percentage.
“To think you can marry Gold Glove-caliber first-base play with a potential long-lasting middle-of-the-order hitter for an organization, I know this was very high on Bobby’s priority list,” Sabean said. “It’s definitely a win-win.”
Having Belt at first base long-term would appear to rule out Posey moving there eventually – an idea that has drawn plenty of speculation but that Evans said Saturday has “never been an internal topic of any sort.” Evans said the Giants see Posey as the “quarterback” of their pitching staff as the catcher and also pointed out his presence behind the plate has helped attract free-agent pitching talent – such as Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, both signed to sizeable long-term deals last offseason.
“I think (Posey catching is) core to our success,” Evans said. “And having a defender and middle-of-the-order-type hitter that Brandon is, is also a key component. So being able to maintain both those roles is important going forward.”
Belt’s deal follows those of Crawford, Cueto (six years, $130 million), Samardzija (five years, $90 million) and Denard Span (three years, $30 million), all extended by the Giants since the end of last season.
Evans said the willingness of team ownership to create “that kind of expenditure is a confidence booster” but added that the spending is “reflective still of a payroll that will only increase incrementally from year to year.”
Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said at Belt’s news conference: “It’s been an organizational commitment to do as much as we can with homegrown talent. And Brandon is another example.”