Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is targeting July 4 to return from thumb surgery that has sidelined him since mid-May, according to Nate Stuhlbarg of CSNBayArea.com.
Stuhlbarg reports that Belt has no issues gripping a bat to hit, but gripping a baseball to make throws from first base is still giving him problems. Despite that he could be cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment later this week.
He was initially expected to miss around six weeks, but a July 4 return would mean missing a total of eight weeks. Belt hit .264 with nine homers and an .820 OPS in 35 games before the injury, showing more power than usual while providing what has become his standard overall production.
In his absence Michael Morse shifted from the outfield to first base and has hit .330 with five homers and a .931 OPS in 29 starts there. Morse will move back to left field when Belt returns, likely pushing Tyler Colvin and Gregor Blanco to the bench while giving San Francisco’s lineup a nice boost.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.