SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As a promising high school pitcher in Texas, Brandon Belt would dream about the day he would sign a multimillion-dollar deal with a Major League Baseball team.
This week, Belt got that deal, but not because of his left arm. The young first baseman was sitting alone in a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel room Tuesday, waiting to take his first crack at arbitration, when his agent called him down to the hotel lobby. Nine hours before the scheduled hearing, the Giants and Belt reached a one-year, $2.9 million compromise.
"I've been waiting on a phone call like that since I was in high school," Belt said. "I really can't believe it right now. I think it'll sink in once I start getting those paychecks."
Those bigger paychecks might eventually be locked in for the long haul. The Giants and Belt have had preliminary discussions about a long-term deal, one that could go in a number of directions.
After two promising seasons in the big leagues, Paul Goldschmidt signed a five-year, $32 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who in March of 2013 bought out all of Goldschmidt's arbitration years and one free-agent year. Goldschmidt was 25 when he signed the extension and went on to finish second in the National League MVP vote.
The Atlanta Braves took a different route with Freddie Freeman, who finished fifth in the MVP vote last year, his third full season in the big leagues. Freeman, 24, already has three 20-homer seasons and just signed a $135 million deal with the Braves that could keep him in Atlanta through 2021.
Belt, who turns 26 in April, said he hasn't given much thought to what the details of an extension would look like. Both the Giants and Belt are open to finding common ground this spring, but that may prove difficult. The Belt camp is said to be well aware that being patient can lead to a far bigger deal, especially if the player is confident that he'll continue to progress.
"I've improved every year," Belt said, a statement backed up by the numbers. His OPS has gone from .718 to .781 to .841 the past three seasons, and Belt hit a career-high 17 homers a year ago.
Belt was confident as he headed for a hearing that never happened. He had asked for $3.6 million, while the Giants countered at $2.05 million. The Giants are happy with a compromise that sent Belt back to camp, and the coaching staff presented Belt a hell of a present on his first day working out with the rest of the team. The left-handed hitter squared off against southpaws Madison Bumgarner and Jeremy Affeldt during the first live batting practice session of the spring.
"Yeah, that was fun," Belt said, shaking his head. "Bum kept spotting it up on the outside corner. He refused to throw it down the middle."
Michael Morse also impressed Thursday, hitting two opposite field homers off left-handed prospect Edwin Escobar.