Casey at the Bat | Mariners Free Agents: Adrian Beltre

Casey McLainSenior Analyst IMay 10, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 29:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Seattle Mariners plays third base against the Chicago White Sox during the game on April 29, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Adrian Beltre has been a source of contention among Mariners fans since signing a contract with the team before the 2005 season.

Fans were warned that Beltre, who’d hit 48 home runs in 2004, and finished second-place in MVP voting in the National League had never duplicated those numbers in his career. Following an unprecedented season is an uncomfortable time to sign a player.

Beltre has never lived up to those numbers in Seattle, but savvy fans can appreciate the things he brings to the team. He’s an excellent defender, and while many people mistakenly lump third base into the same “corner infielder” category as first baseman, elite offensive third basemen are rare throughout baseball’s history.

There are only 13 third basemen in the hall of fame, and only four have been inducted since 1988: George Brett, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt and Jud Wilson.

Brett spent most of his career after the age of 34 playing either first base or designated hitter. Wilson was a Negro League player who retired in 1945.

Beltre’s five-year, $64 million deal was a huge contract the day it was signed, but has since proven to be something of a value-signing.

Alex Rodriguez, signing his first contract as a full time third baseman, inked a deal for 10 years, $275 million.

Scott Rolen, whose contract started in a season he’d turn 28 years old in, signed an eight-year, $90 million deal.

At the same age, Troy Glaus, who’d eventually be traded for Rolen signed a four-year, $45 million deal.

Here are the league’s highest paid third basemen, and their BA/OBP/SLUG in 2008, an average Beltre-year, and their 2008 salaries:

Alex Rodriguez: .302/.392/.573, $28M

Aramis Ramirez: .289/.380/.518, $15M

Adrian Beltre: .266/.327/.457, $12.8M

Mike Lowell: .274/.338/.461, $12.5M

Chipper Jones: .364/.470/.574, $12.3M

Troy Glaus: .270/.372/.483, $11.5M

Scott Rolen: .262/.349/.431, $11.5M

Eric Chavez: .247/.295/.393, $11M

David Wright: .306/.395/.486, $9.7M

Ryan Zimmerman: .283/.333/.442, $8M

Between Beltre, the leagues third highest paid third baseman, and the eighth highest paid third baseman, there is less than a $2 million differential.

Noteworthy, however is that Beltre has won the AL’s Gold Glove at the position in each of the last two seasons. Beltre is one of five players on that list to win a Gold glove at the position; the others are Wright, Rolen, Lowell and Chavez.

Glaus, Jones and Rodriguez have all played significant time at another position during their careers; Glaus at first base, Jones in left field and Rodriguez at shortstop.

With very few elite offensive third baseman, Beltre’s got the potential to upgrade a lot of teams at the “hot corner.” However, Beltre could garner Type A status, and the Mariners will look to receive something they value more than two compensatory first round draft picks.

There were talks this offseason of packages that included Denard Span from the Twins, or Michael Bowden from the Red Sox.

Span is a good-enough defensive outfielder, but his value is more apparent at the plate, where he walks a ton considering his lack of raw power.

Bowden is a highly regarded prospect with the Red Sox, and once a first-round compensatory selection by the team. He’s dominated and progressed throughout his minor league career, with a WHIP (Walks and hits per inning pitched) below one in each of his last two seasons in the minors.

Prospects like that, along with other potential prospects would make sense, and be very Zduriencik –like acquisitions.

There appears to be very little chance of the Mariners re-signing Beltre. The compensation he’ll garner as a Type A free agent make it irresponsible, and the team has potential replacements for Beltre in Matt Tuiasosopo and Ronny Cedeno, both of whom could have comparable offensive and defensive seasons, and come a much lower price tags.

Check out more of Casey's work, as well as Kyle Williams 2009 NBA Mock Draft at 5th Quarter Sports