The Toronto Blue Jays signed veteran first baseman Brandon Belt to a one-year contract on Tuesday. Financial terms were not announced, but The Athletic's Kaitlyn McGrath reports the deal is worth $9.3 million.
Right-handed reliever Julian Merryweather was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster.
Belt had spent his entire 12-year MLB career with the San Francisco Giants, winning two World Series titles in 2012 and '14. San Francisco was reportedly interested in retaining him, but the Blue Jays beat the Giants to the punch.
The 34-year-old played just 78 games in 2022 due to a knee injury that required surgery, posting a .213/.326/.350 slash line with eight home runs. His 2021 campaign was excellent, albeit in only 97 contests, slugging a career-best 29 home runs with a .975 OPS. He also dominated during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, registering a 1.015 OPS in 51 games. He was named an All-Star in 2016.
With phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. shouldering the vast majority of the workload at first base, Belt won't be asked to take on an everyday role with the Blue Jays in 2023. He figures to see time at designated hitter, especially when Alejandro Kirk is catching, and will be a valuable option off the bench. The Texas native has been much better against right-handed pitchers over his career, logging an .840 OPS compared to a .748 mark against southpaws, so manager John Schneider might be selective as to when he deploys his new weapon.
Toronto has made a conscious effort to improve its lineup balance this winter, bringing in a number of left-handed bats in Belt, Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier to complement a plethora of righty sluggers, including Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer.
Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Gabriel Moreno and Ross Stripling are among the key contributors the Blue Jays lost from their 2022 team this offseason, while Chris Bassitt and Erik Swanson are other notable additions.
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