Wednesday 18 July 2012

Trade Deadline Wishlist Item: Brandon Belt

Yeah fellas, I know.  Pipe dreams and whatnot.  But let's let our imaginations run wild a second, shall we?

I'm not going to go out and assume that Belt is available or anything, but hey, AA has surprised us before, right?  And if he were going to surprise us again, this would be a nice place to start.

Let's remember back to AA's first surprising-ish trade (that I can think of, anyway), when he acquired Yunel Escobar (and Jojo Reyes) from Atlanta for Alex Gonzalez and prospects Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky. Escobar had fallen out of favor in Atlanta in 2010, despite being worth 4 WAR in 2009, due to a "flamboyant approach to the game" that "infuriated some members of the Braves organization".  Fast forward to last season, when the Jays acquired Colby Rasmus, Mark Teahen and a bunch of useless relievers in a big convoluted deal that saw 8 players and some cash change teams.  We saw similar reports about Rasmus as we did about Escobar having attitude issues and whatnot.

While I don't think we've heard anything like that about Belt, we don't know that he isn't frustrated (not that it matters) with his lack of playing time, nor do we know why a 24-year old with a .356 OBP is on pace for fewer than 500 PA's.  

For those unfamiliar, we can liken the Belt situation of last year to the Travis Snider situation of this year; "why isn't Brandon Belt up?" "When is Brandon Belt coming up?" "Free Brandon Belt." I dunno, man.  With a .291/.436/.535 line (slightly worse than Travis Snider, despite this being Snider's 4th chance at the league) over 62 AAA games, I'd kind of be wondering the same.  Instead, the Giants opted for mostly Aubrey Huff, though Belt got time in RF.

Beyond playing Huff (.246/.307/.370) at 1B over Belt last year (and early this year), this year, the Giants don't really like sitting Buster Posey a whole lot, opting instead to move him from C to 1B on his semi-days off.  Instead of having Posey push Belt back to the outfield, they just send him to the bench, giving Belt's AB's to Hector Sanchez, keeping the Melky Cabrera/Angel Pagan/Gregor Blanco outfield in tact.  A pile of stats:

Hector Sanchez: .281/.286/.383 batting line, career 78 wRC+, 2012 76 wRC+. 
Gregor Blanco: .246/.346/.470 batting line, career 95 wRC+, 2012 106 wRC+.
Brandon Belt: .246/.356/.402 batting line, career 106 wRC+, 2012 112 wRC+.
Angel Pagan: .287/.332/.407 batting line, career 104 wRC+, 2012 106 wRC+.

Belt's clearly the best hitter among those four right, and nobody would take Belt out of the order while leaving three worse offensive options in the order? Well, slow yourself:

No, Bruce, I wouldn't.  I mean, if you want Posey to play 1B, someone's gotta catch, I get that much, but whatever.

You starting to think that the Giants are losing interest in Belt? Sure he's mired in a little slump at the moment, but that's what MLB seasons are; peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and so on.  He's 24, after all.

Okay, I think I've done a good enough job showing that Belt is, at worst, a reasonable option for an MLB lineup, and coming from a guy who can read a stat sheet, I can say that he should be playing over Gregor Blanco or Angel Pagan, and that Hector Sanchez shouldn't be getting AB's at Belt's expense either.  We're beyond that.  But shit, is it possible that Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy just plain don't like Brandon Belt, whether it be as a person or as a player?  Bochy won't play him (as much as he should), and Sabean took forever to call him up.  Maybe he's expendable?

You wanna know what's even more delicious?  The Giants like Brandon Crawford at SS, despite his bat (.237/.287/.327), so they probably won't be acquiring a shortstop (who knows though?), but their next worst offensive production has come from 2B.  Ryan Theriot has given them .274/.315/.318, and his rest-of-season projections don't really vary too far from that, nor is his fielding anything special.

Hey, we have a 2B! Brian Sabean has said that he won't make a significant move for a rental player, but if Belt is losing AB's for Blanco and Sanchez, then that might not qualify as a "major" trade, at least not to them.  You want Kelly Johnson?  Fucking take him.  Too rentally?  Have something else.  Fuck knows you want to get Barry Zito out of the rotation sooner or later, have a pitching prospect.  Are you bluffing about the shortstop thing?  A lot of people (Jon Heyman, for example) are reporting that the Jays would be willing to move Yunel Escobar, a shortstop with 3 years of control left (options) at an affordable price.

I'm not going to begin to pretend that I can give reasonable predictions of who should and shouldn't be included in a deal that might not even have a chance of happening, but I'd certainly put down a lot of money suggesting that Yunel has more trade value than Johnson, and that if the Jays are even in to moving Escobar, which is something that we can't really confirm, remember, due to AA's don't-say-a-word-and-don't-believe-it-if-I-don't-say-it policy, Escobar would have to be a decent start to the discussions.  If Escobar isn't available, it would have to be a bit more than Johnson, I feel.  Whaddya want?  Prospects?  A reliever? We've got it.  Want Adam Lind?

And ultimately, if the question is "Alex Anthopoulos vs. Brian Sabean: Who ya got?", well... gimme Anthopoulos.

[This whole plan actually just hit a snag; Hector Sanchez was placed on the 15-day DL today.  Fuck.  We'll work around it.]

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