What to do about Brett Pill?

September 22, 2011, 10:36 pm
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Brett Pill doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors. He's raked at every level, and he's been raking in the big leagues since being called up earlier this month.His 3-for-5 night Wednesday in a huge win against the rival Dodgers highlighted his clean and controlled stroke, raising his batting average through eight games with the Giants to .333 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and eight RBIs, giving him an eye-popping slugging percentage of .733 and an equally impressive OPS of 1.067.So what do you do with him next year? It's a question the club will have to think long and hard about over the winter.

Pill, you see, is a first baseman by trade. But so is Aubrey Huff, whom Giants manager Bruce Bochy recently said will be his first baseman in 2012, when Huff is again going to be pulling down 11 million in salary.And so is Brandon Belt, who made the Opening Day roster with an impressive showing at spring training that came on the heels of a ridiculously productive 2010 season, in which Belt ripped through the minors like he had a deadline to meet.Huff, by the way, could be in the mix through the 2013 season, too. The Giants have a club option on him for a cool 10 million. But unless he lives up to his recent career pattern of good season-bad season-good season, hello 2 million option buyout.It's been assumed since Belt burst onto the scene that he'll eventually replace Huff at first base, and given how badly Huff has struggled in 2011, more than a few folks would like to see that happen sooner rather than later.Yet Belt hasn't exactly been a man on fire this year himself -- unless you count his numbers at Triple-A Fresno, to which he was banished three times. During his time this season with the Grizzlies, Belt batted .309 with a .448 on-base percentage and a .975 OPS with eight homers and 32 RBIs over 49 games.Pill, meanwhile, batted .312 with a .341 OBP, .871 OBP, 25 homers and 107 RBIs over 133 games at Fresno. And suddenly it is Pill for whom Giants fans are pining, in part because Belt's numbers with the Giants have been pedestrian.Granted, Belt's stats for San Francisco -- .212 BA, .701 OPS, eight homers and 16 RBIs over 56 games -- could be the product of being a human yo-yo, and missing considerable time with a broken wrist didn't help, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and Pill has done more for Giants fans lately.So let's re-phrase the question: What do you do not just with Pill next year, but with Huff penciled in by Bochy as the starting first baseman, what do you do with Pill and Belt?Well, Belt can play in the outfield. He's far better at first base, where he's got Gold Glove ability, but he could handle left field with an offseason and next spring to prepare.Pill, though, despite having spent some time at second base in Fresno, isn't cut from any sort of legitimate middle-infield cloth. He's 6-foot-4 with average lateral range. Besides, the Giants have Freddy Sanchez (they hope) and Jeff Keppinger (under club control via arbitration) to man second base.Seems like a trade is in order. But which guy do you trade? Belt is 23 and has more upside, so his trade value is likely highest, but he's also a highly popular player and could very well blossom into the power-hitting first baseman for which the Giants have been searching for years.Pill, on the other hand, is 27. How much upside is there? He might not fetch much in return. And hey, if Belt can transition into the outfield, what would be so wrong with Pill serving as Huff's backup for 2012 and taking over at first in 2013?As for trading Huff ... yeah, right. Not after the season he's put together this year. Not with that salary looming.So again, the big question, and this time it's posed directly to Giants fans: What do you do?

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