The Toronto Blue Jays have made a number of interesting additions this winter to shore up a group that will look to made it past the AL Wild Card round for the first time since 2016. Multiple reports have indicated that the Jays agreed to a one-year deal worth a little over $9 million dollars with former Giant infielder Brandon Belt. The move marks an end of an era of Belt, who was originally drafted by the Giants in 2009 out of the University of Texas. For Toronto, the move adds yet a left-handed bat that could slot in nicely to the top of the Blue Jays lineup this season.
Related: How the Giants Bullpen Looks After Signing of Luke Jackson
A Look at Belt
Long-time San Francisco Giant Brandon Belt has been one of the game’s more consistent hitters over the past decade. The former Giant first baseman traditionally recorded above-average batted ball metrics over the past few years. Belt has recorded eight consecutive seasons in which the former All-Star recorded a BB% above 10%. For reference, the average is 8.2% per Baseball Reference. On top of that, Belt hit the double digit marker in home runs in eight of his 12 big league seasons.
Belt played just 78 games last season, thanks in large part to knee inflammation. The 34-year-old hit just .213/.326/.350 in 2022 with eight home runs and 18 extra base hits. It was a sharp departure from 2021, in which the first baseman had a career year for the Giants. Belt cracked 29 home runs for San Francisco in just 97 games last season. That total marked a career-high for Belt, and eclipsed his previous high of 18 in 2017. The ex-Giant’s 7.61% HR% was not only a major outlier from that year, but it was also the third-best that season (min. 300 PA). Only former Rays catcher Mike Zunino (8.46%) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (7.69%) recorded a larger HR% than Belt.
It’s fair to be concerned about Belt’s ability to stay healthy going forward. The first baseman missed a good chunk of time in three of his last five seasons. However, his steady ability to get on base that should be welcome a Jays offense that is set to be one of the league’s best heading into 2023.
What it Means
Thanks for an already strong core group, Toronto didn’t have many goals that needed to be accomplished. However, one was to shore up a rotation that hit some turbulence last season. The Jays did just that with the addition of RHP Chris Bassitt. Provided that José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi can deliver quality innings this upcoming season, the Jays rotation could rank among the best.
Adding at least one significant left-handed bat was another primary goal. Toronto boasts some of the game’s best right-handed hitters in George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. However, the group’s most notable left-handed bat entering the winter was infielder Cavan Biggio.
Toronto scooped up left-handed hitter and defensive extraordinaire Kevin Kiermaier in December, but the acquisition of Daulton Varsho from the Diamondbacks and the signing of Belt are much more impactful from an offensive perspective. As far as Belt goes, the new Jay has excelled throughout his career at getting on base and driving balls to the gap. When healthy, the career 123 OPS+ hitter should fit in nicely for a team in need for some left-handed pop.