TORONTO -- Consider the Blue Jays’ lineup officially remodeled, with the club agreeing to terms on a one-year, $9.3 million deal with veteran Brandon Belt late Monday, a source confirmed to MLB.com.
The deal, first reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, has not yet been announced by the club. Belt Tensioner
Belt has been a fixture with the Giants for 12 seasons, winning World Series rings in 2012 and ’14. Belt played some outfield when he was younger, but comes to the Blue Jays as a first baseman and DH option, giving manager John Schneider a major upgrade as a bench bat on days he’s not in the lineup.
The 34-year-old is coming off a down year, though, with his .213 average and .676 OPS both outliers compared to his career numbers. Belt was dealing with right knee issues that had followed him for years, stretching back to a right meniscus surgery in 2015. He underwent another surgery in ’18, then required arthroscopic surgery in September of ’22, ending his season early.
When healthy, though, Belt’s profile fits the Blue Jays beautifully.
Belt owns a career on-base percentage of .356, which is an area the Blue Jays have prioritized. Toronto fell just short of the postseason in 2021 and went down in flames in the American League Wild Card round this past season, but both of those failures came with lineups that were exceptional on paper. How, then, could the Blue Jays approach the same old problem from a different angle?
Their answer has focused mostly on defense, with the free-agent signing of Kevin Kiermaier and a major trade for Daulton Varsho. Those two replaced fan favorites Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and now with Belt, the Blue Jays are looking to diversify an offense that often leaned on right-handed bats to deliver a big blow.
Belt, a lefty, has always hit right-handed pitching well, and should have two fairly clear paths to playing time in 2023.
The easiest at-bats for Belt will come at DH, where he should see time on days that Alejandro Kirk catches. When Danny Jansen is behind the plate, Kirk himself may be the better DH option, but Belt is a good bet to end the season with the most at-bats there.
Belt should also serve as Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s primary backup at first base, a position the veteran still plays regularly. Last season, Guerrero started 126 games at first, so it’s easy to envision 30 starts for Belt along the way. Don’t sleep on the value of Belt’s experience, too, which is something the Blue Jays are enamored by.
As long as Belt is healthy and producing, though, this is a bat that will find its way into the lineup. Besides, the Blue Jays aren’t spending $9.3 million -- especially with their current payroll -- to have a player collect dust on the bench. While it’s still possible this club adds another true outfielder to round out that new-look group, Belt’s addition feels like that “missing piece” to a lineup that’s undergone some significant changes.
Oem3162322 While Belt, Kiermaier and Varsho were all acquired for different reasons, all bat left-handed and all represent a philosophical shift for an organization that currently sits right in the middle of its competitive window, but has yet to reach the heights that the talent on this roster is capable of.