Monday, December 6, 2010

Where does Adrian Beltre Go from Here?

UPDATE (7:30 pm):  Buster Olney reports that Adrian Beltre is looking for a contract in the range of 5 years $70-75M.      

3:30 pm:  It’s amazing how much things can change in a matter of a few days.  On Friday morning, Adrian Beltre was a hot commodity.  Now, not so much.  While he’s still going to get a huge contract, a couple of his most ardent suitors have dropped out of the running. 

Beltre’s first choice was to return to Boston, but the Adrian Gonzalez trade has nixed those plans.  With Gonzalez in the fold at first base, the Red Sox will move incumbent first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, across the diamond to third base.  With David Ortiz entrenched at DH for at least one more season, the Red Sox just don’t have room for Beltre. 

The Oakland A’s appeared to be very serious in their intent to sign the power hitting third baseman.  After offering him a 5 year $64M contract in mid-November, the A’s have decided to pull their offer.  This is a smart move for the A’s.  The Beltre/Boras camp has repeatedly ignored their overtures.  It doesn’t make sense for the A’s to continue to put effort into signing him when they’re offer is probably being used as leverage with another team.  It’s best for them to focus their resources elsewhere.  The money spent on Beltre could be used more efficiently.  Either way, Boras will still use this offer as a benchmark going forward.

The Orioles appear to be interested in signing Beltre, but their primary focus seems to be on trading for Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds.  If a trade were to get completed, this would shrink Beltre’s pool of interested teams even further.  That said, it’s probably for the best.  Beltre is a right-handed pull hitter, while Camden Yards greatly favors the left-handed variety.  Camden wouldn’t stifle Beltre’s home runs quite like Safeco Field did, but it would have an effect.

So where does he go from here?  Well, the Angels are still very interested in obtaining Beltre.  Last season, the Angels had the least productive third base situation in baseball with Brandon Wood, Maicer Izturis, and Alberto Callaspo sucking up unproductive plate appearances.  Without an obvious replacement at the moment, Beltre fits their needs.  That said, their primary focus is on acquiring Carl Crawford.  If the Angels win the Crawford sweepstakes, they might not be as willing to splurge on another expensive free agent.  If they fail in their quest, the Angels would be very active on this front.  Beltre still has a home in Los Angeles, and is reportedly interested in returning to the west coast. 

One team that no one has discussed in relation to Adrian Beltre is the Arizona Diamondbacks.  If the Diamondbacks are successful in their attempt to trade Reynolds, this could be great pick up for both parties.  The Diamondbacks have an incredibly young lineup (Upton, Drew, Montero, etc.), and could definitely use a veteran presence in the middle.  Beltre would love hitting in the friendly confines of Chase Field, which heavily favors the long ball.  Currently, the Diamondbacks don’t have any third base prospects within 2-3 years of reaching the majors.  (Bobby Borchering, a top five prospect, is the closest.  He’s only 19 years old, and played in intermediate-A ball last year.)  With plenty of money to spend ($24M on the books so far for 2011), it makes a lot of sense for Kevin Towers to at least kick the tires on Beltre. 

Other teams that have potential openings at third base are:

  • Blue Jays – While they could get involved in the Beltre sweepstakes, there haven’t been any rumors tying them to Beltre.  They seem to be more focused on acquiring Zach Greinke and a catcher. 
  • Twins – The Twins seem to be fine with giving the job to Danny Valencia who hit .311/.351/.448 in 85 games for them last year.
  • Indians – They’re in rebuilding mode.  It doesn’t make sense for them to give up a valuable first round pick to sign Beltre when they should be doing everything they can to stockpile young talent.
  • Royals – I don’t have the foggiest idea who they will put at third in 2011, but it won’t be Beltre.  With super-prospect Mike Moustakis about a year away from reaching the big leagues, they’re not going to block him.    
  • Mariners – Been there, done that.
  • Astros – While Ed Wade has never been one to resist the urge of overpaying for talent on the wrong side of their 30s, the Astros seem intent on letting 25 year old Chris Johnson the job.

So there you have it.  Beltre’s market has essentially been cut down to three teams—maybe four if the Blue Jays decide to get involved.  Also, don’t be surprised if the A’s get back into it later in the offseason if other teams drop out of the running.  Billy Beane is not one to allow a potential bargain slip through his fingers.  Still, the smart money is on him going to Los Angeles of Anaheim.  They have both the need, and the cash to make it happen.  It all comes down to whether owner Arte Moreno is willing to spend the extra cash.    

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