Does Brandon Belt make sense for the Padres?

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(A.P. Photo/Matt Slocum)

Does free agent Brandon Belt make sense for the San Diego Padres in 2024?

The Padres need offensive help this winter, specifically from the left side of the batter’s box.

Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Xander Bogaerts are the heart of the lineup, and all are right-handed hitters. Jake Cronenworth provides some left-handed variety, but the Padres will surely need more of a presence from the left side heading into the 2024 season.

Free-agent first baseman Brandon Belt is available and coming off a productive year with the Blue Jays in 2023. Belt recorded a .254/.369/.490 batting line with a .858 OPS and a 136 OPS+ in 103 games and 339 at-bats. The Texas native started 29 games for Toronto at first base and recorded a .995 fielding percentage for the season. He is regarded as an average defender at best.

For the first 12 years of his time in the majors, the left-handed hitter played for the San Francisco Giants. The once self-proclaimed captain of the Giants owns a career .817 OPS and 136 OPS+ in over 4,700 at-bats. His career average is .261, and his career OBP of .357 is very respectable. Belt has the reputation of a patient hitter and walked 104 times in his lone All-Star season of 2016.

At the age of 36 next season, Belt may still have some life left in his legs. Throughout his career, the 6-foot-3 left-handed thrower has suffered from nagging injuries. In fact, he has only played over 145 games in a season four times in his 13-year career in the majors. And has not done so since 2019.

Last season, Belt made $9.3 million after signing a one-year deal with Toronto. The Padres would be hard-pressed to match that total but could be a player if the veteran is having issues finding a job in late January or early February. It will come down to his asking price.

There is some risk with Belt, but he could hold some value. San Diego could undoubtedly use his left-handed bat.

Could the veteran really be an option for the Padres this coming season?

Let’s explore the topic.

 

Credit: USA Today Sports

Yes, the Padres need help at first base

Belt is not a monster by any stretch of the imagination, but he has proven to be a tough out throughout his major league career. That is arguably what the Padres need most, and having him hit left-handed is a bonus for San Diego. Brandon Belt is a leader and should be a great presence in the locker room as well.

At this point, the Padres need options at first base and D.H. They could do a whole lot worse than Brandon Belt. The former Giant may be motivated to be back in the N.L. West and would surely be amped to play the Giants throughout the season. His power numbers are up, as Belt hit 29 homers in 2021 with the Giants in only 97 games. The Padres need power from the left side, and he could be excellent value for the team in 2024.

 

No, there are better options

The lefty is sure to ask for close to $10 million a season, and that is just too much for the Padres. His numbers increased slightly over the 2022 season, so there is no reason to believe he will sign for a minimal amount. Plenty of teams will be looking for offensive help, and Belt should be employed fairly soon. The Padres just cannot pay top dollar at this point.

Brandon Belt is old, and his production could cease at any time. Injuries are an issue with him as well, as Belt always seems to be battling through some pain. That will not get better with age. He produced last year for the Blue Jays but also struggled to get on the field. The risk just isn’t worth the potential reward. It is a hard pass.

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The verdict

Like anything these days for the San Diego Padres, it will come down to cost. On a one-year, low-cost deal, Belt makes sense in several degrees. The Padres need options, and posing several undervalued players is a safe way to gain production. The thought is that you bring in several players on a low-cost deal, and hopefully, one or two emerge and produce well in the coming season.

Sign someone like Carlos Santana (who is also a free agent) and Belt to team-friendly deals, and maybe one of them will go off in 2024. That is a smart way to ensure production for the middle to lower part of the lineup. The Padres may employ this strategy, or they could trade for Vlad Guerrero Jr. They have that kind of reputation. You never know what A.J. Preller is planning. Stay tuned, as the Padres do need to do something with the roster this winter. Brandon Belt is an option to some degree.

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