Brandon Belt picks up $18.4 million qualifying offer [report]

FILE – San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) watches the flight of ball during the first inning in the first baseball game doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies, on May 4, 2021, in Denver. Belt accepted an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Giants on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, rather than pursue bidders as a free agent. Belt was the only one to accept among the 14 free agents who received the offers from their former clubs on Nov. 7. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Brandon Belt will return to the San Francisco Giants for the 2022 season.

The first baseman reportedly plans to accept the qualifying offer of $18.4 million, making 2022 his 12th season as a Giant. There was reported mutual interest in a multi-year deal, but Belt settled on the one-year offer.

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman was the first to report Belt’s intention.

Belt, 33, is coming off one of his most productive seasons at the plate. He blasted a career-high 29 home runs, building off a particularly strong 2020 shortened year. He was the most powerful hitter on the National League’s most powerful team.

On the year, Belt slashed .274/.378/.597. Since the start of 2020, his wRC+ of 163 trails only Bryce Harper (164) and Juan Soto (171) among hitters with at least 550 plate appearances.

Defensively, Belt is a steady presence at first base. According to Fangraphs, he made 26 out of zone plays — seventh most in MLB — in 2021.

The qualifying offer — an average of the top 125 salaries in baseball — could even be considered a bargain for as well as Belt has played on both sides of the ball.

With Belt’s qualifying offer and including arbitration estimates, the Giants are projected to still have about $100 million to spend in free agency.

Belt has become an emotional leader within the Giants’ clubhouse. With his outgoing, lighthearted personality, he lightened the mood during a stressful 2021 season in which the Giants battled the Dodgers for NL West supremacy. At one point, he declared himself captain of the team, wearing an electrical tape “C” on his chest during a game in Wrigley Field. When he broke his thumb late in the season, his teammates rallied around him by printing “Captain Belt” shirts.

Even fans, who have had an up-and-down perception of Belt through the years, wore nautical captains hats at Oracle Park, signaling a shift in appreciation for the slugger.

Much remains unclear, both with San Francisco’s roster and the fate of the MLB offseason, but now SF has its first baseman locked in.

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