Giants first baseman Brandon Belt will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee tomorrow, he tells Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. The club informed reporters earlier in the week that surgery had been recommended, and the 34-year-old indeed decided to go under the knife after taking a couple days to deliberate.
Belt has been on the injured list a few times this season due to inflammation in that knee. This is far from the first year in which the joint has proven bothersome, as Belt has twice previously undergone surgery and had it drained on multiple occasions. In a forthright chat with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle last week, the 12-year MLB veteran acknowledged the knee could be problematic for the rest of his career.
During his interview with the Chronicle, Belt seemed to imply he could retire entirely if the knee injury were especially damaging. Speaking with Pavlovic today, however, he stated he intends to continue playing if he’s able. “It’s just going to depend. I’m going to play next year if I can get my knee healthy and strong again,” Belt said. “Last time I had this surgery (in 2015), I responded really well to it. That’s what I’m anticipating … If I can get it strong like I did (in 2015) then I’ll play, but if not then I’m not going to go out there and be substandard all the time. We’ll just have to see.”
Belt’s production has taken a huge hit this season, one of the reasons for the Giants inability to replicate last year’s 107-win campaign. Through 298 plate appearances, he hit only .213/.326/.350 with eight home runs. Belt’s just a season removed from blasting 29 longballs, but his hard contact rate has fallen more than six percentage points from last year’s 44.8% mark. It’s hard to imagine the persistent knee issues weren’t playing some role in those struggles, considering he mashed at a .285/.393/.595 clip between 2020-21.
It’s nevertheless tough to know what one can expect from Belt moving forward given his age and injury history. The career-long Giant is headed for free agency this offseason. Belt is making $18.4MM this year after accepting a qualifying offer last November, but he’ll certainly be facing a paycut during this trip to the open market.