Brandon Belt and the Giants avoid arbitration

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Brandon Belt and the Giants avoided arbitration last night by agreeing to a one-year, $2.9 million contract. Belt had filed at $3.6 million and the Giants filed at $2.05 million, so they settled just above the $2.825 midpoint.

The kicker: Belt and the Giants representatives had already flown to Florida for the hearing that was scheduled for today. So I guess that gets him out of a morning workout and allowed him to catch up with whatever he has stored on his Kindle during the flight.

Belt hit .289/.360/.481 for the Giants last year. He turns 26 in April. Most people are comparing him to Freddie Freeman, who the Braves locked up to a nine-figure deal over the winter, and there was some hope among Giants fans that Belt would get a long-term deal. But given that Belt is a year and a half older, has about a season less under his belt and given that the Braves were under more financial pressure to lock up their first baseman than the Giants may be — and thus were under more pressure to back up the Brinks truck for Freeman —  it was pretty unlikely that Belt was going to get anything more than this one-year deal now. If he has another nice season like the one he just had, however, there’s a good chance he gets a long-term deal next year.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉