Giants first baseman Brandon Belt will miss the rest of the 2018 season after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, as manager Bruce Bochy told reporters on Friday afternoon:
Brandon Belt had a meniscus and cartilage cleanup in his right knee today. He’ll be ready for spring training. Offensive linemen get these, like, every other Tuesday.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 21, 2018
Belt was the Giants’ MVP in the first half and positioned himself as a legitimate NL MVP candidate, posting a .287/.383/.480 slash line with 13 homers prior to the All-Star break. As has often been the case throughout his eight-year career, though, he was punished by injuries and was unable to have a complete, effective season. Belt suffered a hyperextended right knee on July 25 in Seattle and was out of action until August 14. At least partly due to the ongoing pain in that knee — it’s obviously severe enough that he’s now having surgery to correct the issue — he’s posted a miserable .155/.216/.223 slash line with just one homer over 31 games in the second half. He hadn’t played since September 14 due to the knee pain.
He’s the latest addition to an extensive list of Giants who have had season-ending surgery this year, joining Pablo Sandoval (hamstring), Steven Duggar (shoulder), Ryder Jones (knee), Buster Posey (hip), and Johnny Cueto (Tommy John), as well as Jeff Samardzija, who was shut down for the year after just 10 starts due to ongoing shoulder inflammation.
25-year-old Aramis Garcia, a natural catcher, has impressed in Belt’s absence, posting a .967 OPS with three homers over his first 30 major-league plate appearances. He’s likely to see the lion’s share of the action at first the rest of the way, though Austin Slater and Chase d’Arnaud could also factor into the mix.
It’ll be interesting to see if Belt takes the field for the Giants again. USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported last weekend that San Francisco is expected to “shake things up” this offseason, and with Belt being one of the Giants’ more valuable assets (a 30-year-old power hitter who does a great job of getting on base) but also a logical scapegoat for their recent struggles (he’s somewhat inconsistent and has played in 130 or more games in just four of his eight big-league seasons), he’d seem to be a trade candidate. To move him, however, the Giants may need to pick up some of the $51.6 million that’s remaining on his contract or sacrifice return value.