Source: Giants hand multi-year deal to valuable bench piece

Source: Giants hand multi-year deal to valuable bench piece
January 23, 2014, 1:30 pm
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In 236 plate appearances last season, Joaquin Arias hit .271/.284/.342 while playing all four infield positions. (USATSI)

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants avoided arbitration with Joaquin Arias on Thursday, agreeing to terms with the versatile backup infielder on a two-year contract that will guarantee him $2.6 million.

CSN Bay Area also learned from a source that Arias' contract includes some performance incentives.

[RELATED: Giants agree to terms with three players; no deal for Belt yet]

Arias' average annual salary of $1.3 million is at the midpoint of arbitration figures filed by the player and the team last week. Arias asked for $1.5 million while the Giants filed at $1.1 million. The 27-year-old hit .271/.284/.342 in 102 games (236 plate appearances) last season while battling several nagging injuries. He was much more valuable at the plate in 2012, when he also contributed a few clutch hits in the postseason on the way to a World Series title.

The right-handed hitter figures to see time behind shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Marco Scutaro, but he's also played first and third. Perhaps most memorably, Arias entered at third base as a substitute for Pablo Sandoval in the late stages of Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012, then made the flat-footed, across-the-diamond throw for the final out.

Arias' signing leaves first baseman Brandon Belt as the lone unsigned player eligible for arbitration. Belt asked for $3.6 million and the Giants filed at $2.05 million. It's unusual for a spread to be so large, even for a player in his first year of arbitration. It shows a definite lack of consensus over Belt's value. If the two sides cannot come to terms, then an arbitrator will hear both sides and select one of the two numbers. (The Giants declined to say when Belt's hearing was scheduled; t could be for any time between Feb. 1 and 21.)

The Giants haven't gone in front of an arbiter since A.J. Pierzynski beat them just prior to the 2004 season, although they got close during Tim Lincecum's first go-round through the process. So the odds are that the Giants and Belt will figure something out, probably a one-year contract near the midpoint, before they'd enter the star chamber. And before you start to fret, remember that Belt won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.