Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Angels Pull Beltre Offer

Have Adrian Beltre and Scott Boras overplayed their hand?
The Angels have pulled their free-agent offer to Adrian Beltre, a deal that was believed to be in the five-year, $70-million range, but a major league source familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday that "the door is still open" for the slugging third baseman to sign with the team.
Moreno made it clear that the Angels' offer would not be increased, in effect challenging Boras to find a better deal for Beltre. That could be difficult considering that big-market teams such as the Red Sox and New York Yankees are not bidding for Beltre and the Texas Rangers' interest reportedly has waned.
Let's recap for those not keeping score at home.  On November 17th, Athletics offered Beltre a 5 year $64M deal to come to Oakland.  On December 4th, Beltre's first choice (Boston) officially dropped out of the running after the Red Sox completed a trade to acquire All-Star first baseman from the San Diego Padres; incumbent first baseman Kevin Youkilis will move across the diamond to third base.  On December 5th, the Athletics, tired of waiting around for Beltre and Boras to return their calls, officially pull their offer from the table.  On December 18th, the Angels offered Beltre a 5 year $70M contract, after weeks of speculation.  Today, the Angels publicly pulled their offer.

So, to answer my own question...Yes, it appears they've overplayed their hand.  In the span of just over a month, they have received only two official offers (that we know of), and driven both bidders away.  The reason?  Collective indifference on the part of Beltre and Boras.  This might come as a surprise to everyone, but teams really take offense to those who repeatedly don't return their calls--especially when they've made your client a reasonable contract offer.  They really don't like it when you shop their offer around to other teams hoping to receive a better offer.  I know, I was shocked too. 

As of the moment, there doesn't appear to be an obvious suitor for Beltre's services.  The most obvious candidates at the start of the offseason (Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, and Rockies) not only filled their needs in cheaper ways, but also showed little interest in signing the power hitting defensive wizard.  The Rangers were thought to be interested in making a serious run at Beltre, but those intentions appear to have cooled.  The talks to move incumbent third baseman Michael Young to the Rockies stalled two weeks ago, and have shown no signs of restarting.  Without a legitimate trade partner, the Rangers have no business making Beltre a significant offer.

So where does this leave Beltre?  Well, both the Angels and Athletics have left the door open to possibly reopen negotiations.  With no offers currently on the table, this seems like an optimal time for Oakland GM Billy Beane to call Scott Boras and try to work out a deal that, in the end, is a relative bargain in comparison to some of the deals given out this offseason.  The A's could use an additional power bat in what appears to be a much improved, but still fairly weak, offense.  With a great young pitching staff, this signing might be what the A's need to reclaim their place atop the AL West.

The Angels desperately need Beltre as well--probably much more than the A's.  Last season, the Angels had the most unproductive third base situation in baseball.  If the season was to start today, the Angels would go into 2011 with the same unproductive players (Callaspo, Izturiz, and Wood) they used throughout 2010.  Additionally, the Angels desperately need another bat to support first baseman Kendry Morales and the aging sluggers Torii Hunter and Hideki Matsui.  Beltre fits both of these needs.  If the Angels intend on reclaiming the AL West crown next season, reopening the Beltre negotiations is probably the best way of making that happen. 

With only two semi-reluctant (yet simultaneously desperate) suitors remaining, Beltre is unlikely to receive the 6 year $90M contract he and Boras have been seeking.  In the end, he'll probably end up signing to a deal identical to the one the Angels put on the table four days ago.  With the average cost of a win on the free agent market approaching $5M, this contract could end up looking like a steal when all is said and done. 

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