Brandon Belt

Giants send Brandon Belt back to the minors … again

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Brandon Belt got off to a slow start with the Giants, but the 23-year-old rookie hit .324 with a 1.011 OPS in 43 games after being sent back to Triple-A and San Francisco’s starting first baseman, Aubrey Huff, is hitting .243 with a .665 OPS.

You’d think that would convince the Giants to give Belt a legitimate chance to unseat Huff down the stretch, but instead they kept Belt on the bench for the past couple weeks and then demoted him back to the minors yesterday to make room on the roster for Mark DeRosa coming off the disabled list.

There’s nothing left for Belt to prove in the minors, where he’s hit .337 with a 1.036 OPS at Double-A and .300 with a .998 OPS at Triple-A, but he’s never going to prove himself in the majors unless the Giants actually give him an extended opportunity. They haven’t and apparently won’t, at least not this season.

Or as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News put it:

So it appears the Giants are going to ride it out with Aubrey Huff at first base. After covering this organization for eight years, I can’t say I’m surprised. Hey, I just report the facts. You’re free to opine from there. Without profanity, please.

That’s about as close as a beat reporter will come to letting readers know he’s dumb-founded by a move.

Huff was a big part of the Giants’ championship last season, but he’s been one of MLB’s least productive first basemen this season and is 34 years old. Re-signing Huff to a two-year, $22 million deal was a mistake made in the euphoria of a World Series win and that contract along with his veteran-ness is now keeping him in the lineup ahead of a far more promising player.

Report: Mark Trumbo signs three-year, $37.5 million contract with Orioles

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.

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Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.

Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.

Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.