Saturday, December 18, 2010

Angels Make "Significant" Offer to Beltre

The Angels have finally made an official offer to Adrian Beltre:
Angels owner Arte Moreno said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that the club has made a "significant" offer to Adrian Beltre, but he doesn't intend to get in a bidding war for the third baseman, or any other player.

The Times speculated that the offer is for five years, $70 million and would not be increased. Beltre is believed to be seeking a six-year, $90 million deal, coming off a comeback season with the Boston Red Sox.
A couple of things.  One, 5/$70M should definitely be construed as a "significant" offer.  To date, I could only find one other report of an official offer, and that was the Oakland A's offer of 5/$64M made in November (and pulled during the winter meetings).  Now, we shouldn't take that to mean that Beltre/Boras haven't received other official offers.  Let's not forget that this offseason's top three free agents all signed to surprise contracts with unexpected teams.*  Still, it does seem rather curious that Boras's hatchet man, Jon Heyman, hasn't leaked any rumors regarding teams either being interested in, or making offers to, Beltre.

* Cliff Lee was rumored to be choosing between Texas and New York before Philadelphia unexpectedly swept in to sign him.  Crawford was rumored to be on the verge of signing with the Angels before he signed with the Red Sox (thought to be out of the race after trading for Adrian Gonzalez) later than evening.  Jayson Werth was not expected to sign with anyone until after Crawford made his decision.  Then the Nationals came out of nowhere, and gave him a 7 year $126M contact with a full no trade clause. 

This seems like a great starting off point for negotiations, but it shouldn't be an offer the Angels expect Beltre to accept.  The Rangers are still reported to be interested in Beltre despite having incumbent third baseman Michael Young (and the $48M owed to him over the next three seasons) still on the payroll.  The Rangers have plenty of money to spend (now that Lee isn't returning to Texas), and will be greatly motivated to either steal or drive up the price on the Angels new primary target.  If the Angels plan on landing the power hitting third baseman, they'll need to protect their offer by remaining flexible throughout the negotiations.

Secondly, I find Beltre's contract expectation to be very interesting.  6/$90M seems like a bit much for a player on the wrong side of 30.  Beltre would be 37 at the end of the theoretical six year deal.  While Beltre has above average power and plays Fielding Bible Award quality defense at third, his on-base abilities leave little to be desired.  His career walk rate is 6.9% (below the 8.5% major league average), and does not project to get any better.  As Beltre ages, his ability to hit home runs and line drives will decrease along with his batting average and on base percentage.  Players that create outs in 70%+ of their plate appearances negatively contribute to a team's offense, no matter how many home runs he hits.  The Angels (and any other suitor) would be wise to stand firm at an offer of five years.

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