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Why the Toronto Blue Jays should bring back Brandon Belt for the 2024 season

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Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
2 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays have avoided the big names on the free-agent board this winter, whether that is by choice or not.
There are some big names still left as superagent Scott Boras continues to maximize the contract offers for his clients, which means the Jays could still add before the season rolls around. However, indications from those close to the organization feel the heavy lifting is over for Toronto with Spring Training right around the corner.
While the club seemed to be in the mix for Shohei Ohtani out of the gate, the club has made a few transactions this winter although to lesser fanfare (for obvious reasons, Ohtani is tough to beat for a reason). The front office brought back fan favourite Kevin Kiermaier on a one-year deal while also adding veteran Justin Turner on a one-year pact, Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a two-year contract, and Yariel Rodríguez on a four-year deal although that hasn’t been finalized at this time.
On the way out includes several roster mainstays, including third baseman Matt Chapman, 2B/LF Whit Merrifield, LHP Hyun Jin Ryu, and RHP Jordan Hicks, with the fiery right-hander the only former member able to find a new deal so far this winter. The club will also enter the 2024 season without 1B/DH Brandon Belt, as there was a possibility that the long-time Giants infielder was prepared to walk away from the game, although a recent report from Andrew Baggarly at the Athletic has the 35-year-old not only returning for another campaign but reportedly close to a deal with a big league club.

The Blue Jays should bring back veteran slugger Brandon Belt on another one-year deal

For Belt, the one season he had in Toronto was solid for his first home season out of the Bay Area.
The lefty-bat authored a .254/.369/.490 slash line through 359 at-bats with 23 doubles, 19 home runs, and 43 RBIs to the tune of a .858 OPS, which led the Blue Jays last season. Working as the club’s main DH option, the Texas product had two different stints on the IL while with Toronto last year, including a hamstring injury and muscle spasms in his back late in the campaign. Even with these injury concerns, the 13-year veteran still appeared in 103 games, a high for Belt since his 2019 season, and bounced back after a 2022 campaign that saw him limited to just 254 at-bats in his final season with the Giants.
Looking at the current Blue Jays roster, one could argue that the current offseason acquisitions have not raised the floor compared to what has currently departed.
The Jays signed two defensive-minded players in Kiermaier and Kiner-Falefa, one pitcher (for depth, albeit with risk), and one bat-first type player in Turner. While this is a well-rounded group of players who will fit their assigned role, the Jays enter the 2024 season needing some more offense to contend in a stacked AL East division and it doesn’t feel like the club has done enough to combat opposing AL teams pitching upgrades.
Even with the idea that the club should see offensive resurgences from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, and Alejandro Kirk this year after down numbers last season, the Jays could benefit from adding another bench type of bat. This is where Belt fits in perfectly.
For starters, Belt was solid for the club when healthy, producing a 91st percentile barrel % (15.0), a 97th percentile BB% (15.1) and was hitting in the sweet spot of the bat at a 44.5% clip, good enough to rank in the 99th percentile. He stayed away from balls outside the zone (96th percentile chase rate) and when he connected, the ball would travel well to the tune of a .370 BABip and a 40.0% hard hit %, 1.2% above the league average last year.
Factor in that Belt swings from the left side and mashes right-handed pitching (career .480 SLG and .844 OPS with 156 home runs), adding his bat into the lineup in either a platoon situation with Turner or as a pinch-hitter late in games is something the Jays batting order doesn’t possess at this time.
The Jays currently enter the season with Kiermaier, Cavan Biggio, and Daulton Varsho swinging from the left side and unless Spencer Horwitz or Addison Barger cracks the Opening Day roster, this is the left-handed bats the club will run with to begin the year. Should opposing teams try to play the pitching matchups against Turner or one of the right-handed bats in the bottom of the lineup (Kiner-Falefa), the club can counter with an experienced bat in Belt, who owns a .516 SLG and .825 OPS as a pinch hitter through 97 at-bats (including 24 RBIs).
Defensively, he can also platoon with Guerrero Jr. if needed similar to last year, which provides more fielding stability compared to Turner, who boasts 527 2/3 innings at first compared to Belt’s 9941 innings and career 49 DRS. Belt likely works more in a platoon role in the DH spot with Turner but again, manager John Schneider can play with the lineup based on who is on the mound or hitting well.
Looking ahead, the current Blue Jays lineup is lacking some firepower heading into the new season and even with the notion that the Jays’ regular bats will hopefully return to form, not having contingency plans in place or at least another experienced bat option seems like poor planning heading into another season for a club looking to contend once again.
Adding a veteran bat such as Brandon Belt won’t break the bank for the Blue Jays, who are already flirting with the CBT while adding a left-handed option off the bench that is not only familiar with the Rogers Centre but produced for the club last season when called upon seems like the right move to shore up the offence heading into the new year, especially if the Jays aren’t going to swing big to bring back Chapman or sign Cody Bellinger.
One-year deal. Get it done.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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