Monday, July 27, 2015

San Francisco Giants: If Anyone Gets Traded, It's Brandon Belt



Looking over his shoulder, how apt.
With the clock ticking until the MLB trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants should be willing to give up only one major piece of the team, and that’s Brandon Belt.

I am one of many who have pulled for the Baby Giraffe since day one. I felt he was shoddily treated his early years in the big leagues, getting shuttled from the big club to the minors and back again on a seemingly regular basis. Then, was he a first baseman or a left fielder? That question, astoundingly, continues to play out. Belt has already played eleven games in left this season, two years after he played a full season at first (injuries kept him on the shelf most of last season. Though he did return to be a big difference in the post-season. You may recall the 18th inning in Washington during the NLCS).

You know why he’s been playing left field. It’s the same reason he should be the only Giant moved by the trade deadline. The reason is: Buster Posey.

There’s a sub-reason for this as well: Andrew Susac.

Posey is a better hitter when he’s not catching. It’s not a theory, it’s statistically backed.

But he’s a phenomenal defensive catcher. The Giants couldn’t consider moving Posey to first base until there was a good option at catcher.

Susac has proved to be that good catcher. I’m a bit biased towards Susac, having covered him when he played college ball for the Oregon State Beavers. Susac was one of the top players on OSU during those years. When the Giants drafted him it seemed like it would be an excellent fit. And it has been.

Susac played in just 29 games last season, his rookie campaign. This year, he’s already started 29 games at catcher and played in 41. The issue is that sliding into third base not long ago he sprained his thumb, and he’s now on the 15-day disabled list.

Might the Giants be hesitant to trade Belt because of Susac’s injury? Maybe, but probably not. Guys can get hurt any day, not just ten days before the trade deadline. Hector Sanchez, currently the Giants third catcher, isn’t exactly a bad backup himself.

With Susac, Posey, and Belt competing for two positions, the options are these:
  1. Move Belt permanently to left field. Then Posey is at first and Susac becomes the catcher. But Belt would be frustrated (although he wouldn’t say anything publicly). And it would cause friction in the clubhouse, because Belt hasn’t done anything wrong to lose his first base job. Resentment is not the sort of thing that will help the ballclub.
  2. Trade Susac. Then Sanchez is the adequate backup catcher, but nobody’s current idea of the “catcher-in-waiting.” Susac is a top backstop in the making, and to get rid of him would be incredibly short-sighted. Because the question is when Posey moves to first full-time, not if.
  3. Trade Posey. Then Susac is the starting catcher and Belt stays at first. This is obviously ludicrous.
  4. Trade Belt. Then Posey moves to first full-time and Susac becomes the everyday catcher.
It might help the Baby Giraffe to be moved anyway. Sometimes it seems like he’s pressing, like he’s afraid his job will be taken away.

Well, he’s exactly right about that.

A trade gives Belt a chance to become an everyday first baseman somewhere else. Then he can mature into the tremendous power hitter that we know he can be without having to look over his shoulder wondering when Posey’s going to take his job.

Frankly, this has been the biggest shadow hovering over the Giants season. Those three guys know that a decision needs to be made. I don’t see Belt moving permanently to left field. So he’s the odd man out.

Best of luck, Baby Giraffe. 

Like it's a relay handoff. Only missing the baton.


photos courtesy: ftw.usatoday.com, sfbay.ca