Jayson Werth, 7 years, $126 million. Cliff Lee, 5 years, $120 million. Carl Crawford, 7 years, $142 million. With nearly half a billion (yes – billion) spent on free agent so far, the consensus top remaining free agent is third baseman Adrian Beltre. Reportedly, the Angels just threw 5 years for $70 million at the guy. That’s roughly $14 million a season. According to Beltre’s agent, Scott Boras, that figure is a little below what they are looking for; they are shooting for somewhere in the 5 year, $85-90 million range. Too bad Adrian Beltre is garbage.
I watched Adrian Beltre man the hot corner for 6 ½ seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I watched as he hit into 6 ½ seasons of double plays with the bases loaded and hit homers when no one was on base or the game was out of reach. I saw him give fans 6 ½ years of seemingly endless frustration as they watched a player with his future full of potential and only morsels of payout. I hated him in LA and his struggles (as will be noted in a minute) in Seattle only made me smile. However…
Despite the fact that he is usually an offensive black hole of suck, the guy is an outstanding defensive third baseman, maybe the best I have ever seen in person. There is rarely a ball he can’t get to or a throw he can’t make. The fact that the man has only won two gold gloves is a travesty.
Don’t get me wrong – the guy was fantastic this past year. He was the best player (period) on that Red Sox team, and without him, that team could have lost between 5 or 10 games, single handedly. But behind his 2004 season (where he finished 2nd in MVP voting next to Barry Bonds and took the Dodgers to the playoffs in a contract year), this was only his second above-average offensive season. After he got a 6 year, $64 million dollar contract from the Seattle Mariners, Beltre was effectively league-average for the duration of that contract. Let's take a look at the numbers:
Beltre’s OPS vs. AL average that year
2005 .716 (.754)
2006 .792 (.776)
2007 .802 (.760)
2008 .784 (.755)
2009 .683 (.763)
2010 .919 (.734)
(OPS means on-base plus slugging percentage. It is a basic metric of how often a player gets on-base, through walks or hits, plus the quality of those hits. The higher the OPS, the better offensive season a player has. For example, Albert Pujols has a career 1.050 OPS – obviously way above the league average. It’s kind of like measuring a NBA player by his shooting percentage or assist to turnover ratio – it’s just a more efficient stat. I will now put my calculator back in my pocket protector and continue to watch Dragon Ball Z).
Seattle paid Beltre like one of the top infielders in the league, and yet, he hit like an average, slightly above-average or even slightly below-average infielder for the duration of his contract. His numbers before his big 2004 season in LA are similarly mediocre.
What spurred me to write this post was that though Adrian has had two incredible, highly-above average years, he’s also had 11 below-average seasons, and no one is talking about those. Instead, it’s bizarro world - the two great seasons are viewed as his norm, and the other eleven are seen as the aberrations, or at worst, not even mentioned.
He definitely deserves a contract, and to be paid decently. But don’t go all Scrooge McDuck on this guy and give him a pool full of gold coins. Going into his age 32 season, he is not getting better (unless he finds something awesome and undetectable) and in fact, is only going to get worse. Don’t fall for the hype Major League Baseball – this guy is a chump.