The Giants are now heading into the 2023 season without two veterans in the corners of their infield.
After Evan Longoria signed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks last week, it was announced on Monday night that Brandon Belt would be joining the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year deal of his own.
Belt leaving the Bay Area isn’t a shock. He was always a long-shot to re-sign after another injury plagued season, with the Giants front office saying repeatedly that they wanted to get younger. But he does leave a hole at the first-base position as far as an everyday player is concerned, and that’s a worrying prospect according to Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow.
“Well it’s a concern,” Krukow said on KNBR Tuesday. “From a pitcher’s perspective, I always look at defense. I think the first baseman is the most overlooked person in that infield. The first baseman calms everybody down in the infield when you have someone there like [J.T.] Snow, like [Will] Clark, like Belt, everybody relaxes because of it. It makes everybody better.
“When you have somebody over there who doesn’t quite have the footwork, doesn’t quite have the experience and doesn’t quite have the softness in the hands, you know it’s a concern. All those guys fall into that category. It is a concern.”
The guys that Krukow is referring to is a combination of LaMonte Wade Jr., J.D. Davis and Wilmer Flores, none of which would be described as “natural” first basemen.
Though not everyone appreciated Belt’s approach at the plate, his ability as a defensive first baseman was beyond reproach. Though he somehow never won a Gold Glove, Belt was consistently at the top of the league in most fielding metrics amongst first basemen, and always passed the eye test.
The same was true for Longoira, who was a three-time Gold Glove winner. He will likely be replaced by a combination of Fores, Davis and David Villar.
“It’s a concern with mine at third base as well,” Krukow continued. “We saw what happened in 1985. We didn’t have great corners on that defense with Joel Youngblood who was a natural outfielder playing third and Al Oliver at first base. I was on that pitching staff at it was tough. A lot of times you’re pitching through mistakes. Even if they weren’t errors, they were plays that weren’t made, that weren’t recorded, extra pitches you had to throw.”
What’s even more concerning is that the Giants finished fourth in errors last season with 100. It’s an infield that needed to improve defensively, and it’s hard to argue it did.
“We get back to the first baseman,” Krukow concluded, “if you don’t have a guy over there that infielders can trust, it tightens everybody up and everybody suffers.”
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