The Union Democrat

Link to the championsh­ip

Giants’ Brandon Belt accepts qualifying offer to return to the team in 2022

- By KERRY CROWLEY

The Giants' leading home run hitter and longest-tenured player is set to return to the organizati­on for at least one more season.

First baseman Brandon Belt has reportedly accepted a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Giants that will keep him in orange and black through the end of the 2022 season. The Giants tendered Belt a qualifying offer, which is a one-year contract worth the mean salary of MLB'S 125 highest-paid players on Nov. 7 and the left-handed slugger had until Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT to accept or decline.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the news of Belt's decision.

Belt, who hit a career-high 29 home runs and posted a .975 OPS in 97 games, enjoyed the best season of his career in 2021 and played a critical role in leading the Giants to a franchise-record 107 victories and the club's first National League West title since 2012.

The 33-year-old Texas native missed more than six weeks during the middle of the season after spraining his knee in a 13-inning win over the Angels on June 23, but returned to the club in early August and carried the Giants' offense in the final two months of the regular season.

Belt appeared poised to become the first Giants player to hit 30 home runs since Barry Bonds had 45 in 2004, but he fractured his hand while attempting to bunt for a base hit against the Rockies on Sept. 26.

After Belt squared around to bunt against Rockies left-hander Lucas Gilbreath, he was hit in the thumb by a fastball, which ultimately ended his season.

The Giants' offense clearly missed Belt's presence during a best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers as San Francisco scored only 10 total runs against Los Angeles during the series.

“You could talk about his value both in how he played down the stretch and how much we missed him once he went down,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said in October. “He's a really, really important part of this team.”

Under manager Gabe Kapler and a trio of hitting coaches — Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind — Belt posted some of the best offensive numbers of his career and became a leading catalyst for a lineup that proved it could thrive inside the historical­ly pitcherfri­endly confines of Oracle Park. Among players with at least 500 plate appearance­s since the start of the 2020 season, Belt's .595 slugging percentage ranks second in the majors behind Padres shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. (.598).

Retaining Belt became the top priority for Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris after catcher Buster Posey announced his retirement two weeks ago. The Giants recognize the leadership void left behind by Posey will be impossible to fill, but Belt is one of the most well-respected members inside the team's clubhouse and has emerged as a more vocal presence during Kapler's tenure.

Belt said frequently throughout the 2021 season that he's as confident as he's ever been at the major league level and that was reflected in both his on-field performanc­e and off-the-field demeanor.

After declaring himself the Giants' unofficial “captain” on a team flight in September, Belt arrived at Wrigley Field in Chicago to find a makeshift captain's “C” stitched onto the front of his gray road jersey with black electrical tape. At the urging of his teammates, Belt wore the “C” onto the field and proceeded to go 2 for 3 with a double, a home run and two walks in a 6-1 victory over the Cubs.

Following Belt's seasonendi­ng injury, Giants players had T-shirts designed that featured a captain's patch and wore them on the field during pregame warmups.

As the Giants look to build off of the foundation created under Kapler and his staff in 2022, Belt is expected to play important roles both as a first baseman and as a veteran leader as he and Brandon Crawford represent the last active remaining links to the 2012 and 2014 World Series championsh­ip teams.

Of the 12 major league players to receive qualifying offers, Belt was the only one to accept.

 ?? Matthew Stockman
/ Getty Images /TNS ?? Brandon Belt (9) of the San Francisco Giants circles the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on Sept. 25 in Denver.
Matthew Stockman / Getty Images /TNS Brandon Belt (9) of the San Francisco Giants circles the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on Sept. 25 in Denver.

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