Let me see if I have this right Adrian Beltre.
Your contract for next season is a player option for $5 million dollars. That option moves to $10 million dollars if he picked up 640 plate appearances this season – a total you hadn’t reached since the 2006 season. On Thursday you picked up plate appearance 640 triggering the clause. On Friday, you told the team you were going to miss the last three games of the season to be with your pregnant wife who has just gone into labor.
I love a good conspiracy as much as the next fella – you should see the 50+ JFK books in my library – but I’m not going to start something here other than to say I find it highly coincidental that the day after his contract option doubled Beltre decided to end his season. In truth, it matters little anyway since he is nearly certain to turn down the 1-year extension in his hope of landing one last, huge, big money deal. Does he deserve a big deal? Let’s examine his career track record before we render our judgment.
(1) Beltre will be 32 years old in April of next season. Based upon current training methods, it is reasonable to expect that he could be a useful everyday player for another 4-5 years. That would seem to indicate that he could be in line for a nice deal.
(2) Beltre is a good player, much better than he is often given credit for. He is an excellent defensive third basemen, always has been, but the quickness you need to play third base at a high level often starts to dissipate right about the age that Beltre currently is.
(3) While a strong hitter with a good track record, there is a major concern with Beltre. The two best seasons of his career, the only two that can legitimately be labeled as difference making seasons, just so happened to occur the two years he was heading into free agency. In 2004 he had arguably the greatest hitting season by a third baseman in history as he hit .334 with 48 homers, 121 RBI, 104 runs scored, 200 hits and a 1.017 OPS. This season he hit .321-28-102-84 with 189 hits an a .919 OPS.
Not once, other than those two seasons just referenced, has he ever had 100 RBI.
Not once, other than those two seasons, has he ever had 170 hits a season.
Not once, other than those two seasons, has he ever hit over .290.
Not once, other than those two seasons, has he ever posted an OPS over .850.
You’re starting to get the point right?
(4) Still, I don’t want to short Beltre who is good, just not great, hitter. From 2002 through 2010, each of the eight seasons that he had at least 500 at-bats he hit 19 homers with 75 RBI (he missed out in 2009 when he had eight homers and 44 RBI in 449 ABs). Again not great numbers, but at the same time he is the only third baseman in baseball who has pulled off the 19-75 double in eight of the past nine seasons.
In the end, just hope that your favorite team doesn’t open up the vault to sign a player who is nearing the decline phase of his career. Beltre should be a very productive player for the next handful of seasons, but do yourself a favor and look for a series of 20 homer, 80 RBI efforts or you are going to be left feeling like you got stuck with the dinner tab like Dez Bryant just did by his Cowboys’ teammates.