JUNE 28: Belt has minimal structural damage in his knee, Kapler told reporters (including Guardado). The team is optimistic he’ll be able to rehab the injury without requiring surgery.
JUNE 26: Belt will miss more than 10 days in recovery, Kapler told MLB.com’s Maria Guardado and other reporters, and a possible knee surgery isn’t out of the question. “I think as we evaluate it, everything could potentially be on the table. I think the concerns are there, yeah,” Kapler said.
Belt, 33, is one of the many seemingly rejuvenated veterans dotting the Giants’ roster. Belt posted a career-low 98 wRC+ over 616 plate appearances in 2019, but he’s been nothing short of spectacular at the dish since. After slashing a wholly unsustainable .309/.425/.591 (172 wRC+) in 179 plate appearances last season, Belt has continued to trend in the right direction with a .253/.363/.512 line through 201 trips to the box. Time will tell whether this bout of knee inflammation is a short-term setback or something more serious.
Wade, an outfielder by trade, can share the first base duties with Darin Ruf while Belt is out. Offensively, the Giants believe Wade/Ruf can hold the line, but Belt’s defense is harder to replicate. Slusser provides this quote from manager Gabe Kapler, “…as good as LaMonte is and as good as Ruf is over there, Belt is like another level when it comes to footwork and putting himself in good positions to take care of the other infielders on the diamond. LaMonte is going to continue to improve over there with more reps, but we’re going to really miss Brandon as a defender.”
In looking for ways to upgrade as we approach the trade deadline, it’s natural to consider the position player side of the Giants’ roster given that three-quarters of their expected starting infield is currently on the injured list (Belt, Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella). That said, the Athletic’s Grant Brisbee writes that the rotation, in fact, may be the first place the Giants look to upgrade.
To Brisbee’s point, the rotation certainly didn’t look like a significant strength heading into the season. Kevin Gausman looked the part of a frontline starter, though his track record wasn’t long enough to erase all doubts. Johnny Cueto used to be a star, but he hasn’t appeared as one since 2016. Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, and Aaron Sanchez rounded out the five. That trio seemed to be a low-ceiling/high-floor group if healthy – though they came with significant health concerns. Logan Webb figured to be the primary understudy, and though he’s younger and therefore full of promise, he entered the year with a 5.36 ERA/4.15 FIP through 94 career innings.
As a group, they’ve exceeded expectations: 3.14 ERA/3.44 FIP, both ranking third-best in the Majors, with the fifth-most innings pitched at 401 2/3, and the sixth-most fWAR accumulated with 7.3 fWAR. They’ve induced groundballs at the third-best rate among rotations and allowed less walks per nine innings than every team save the rival Dodgers.
Still, Sanchez may still be bothered by his blister issues, per Slusser, and Webb is out with a strained shoulder. Gausman has been brilliant, and DeSclafani a pleasant surprise, but there’s certainly room to add the right guy if the Giants should find him. Identifying that arm will take some doing. Max Scherzer has been a popular target for speculation, but the latest reports suggest he’ll need an extension before accepting a deal. Besides, when the Nats are within earshot of contention – as they are right now – they aren’t typically inclined to sell.
To speculate on other potential rotation targets, look no further than our list of top-40 trade targets. Jon Gray, Matthew Boyd, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Jose Urena, German Marquez, Spencer Turnbull, and John Means are some of the top names that may be available come July.