Adrian Beltre has been absolutely sensational for the Boston Red Sox this year. That's the thing though; it's been one sensational year. Beltre's track record says he will never have a batting average over .300 or an OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) over .900 ever again.
With an on base percentage of .366, Beltre hasn't been on base this much since 2004 when he had an OBP of .388. His 162 game average is .328. As recently as 2009, Beltre was on base at a clip of .304. He has also had an OPS lower than .800 nine times in his thirteen year career.
Can the Red Sox really count on Beltre to produce this much next year? Quite frankly, the reason he signed here in the first place for such a low salary was to set himself up for a long-term deal at age 31. By rewarding him with an extension, the Sox would be giving him the chance to stop working hard.
The last time Adrian Beltre signed a long-term deal was in 2005. He signed a five-year, $64 million deal with the Seattle Mariners after a career year in which he hit 48 home runs with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004. Looks like the Dodgers made the right decision to let him walk.
That's exactly the approach the Red Sox need to take. Beltre's track record speaks for itself. Have a monstrous season, get paid, stop working hard. After 2004, he was supposed to be in the prime of his career at age 26. Instead, he hit .255 with an OPS of .716 and had just 19 home runs in 156 games.
Beltre's defensive prowess has also been grossly exaggerated. He leads all American League third basemen with 16 errors and it isn't the first time he's led the league in errors. Beltre did the same thing in 2007. Somehow he won one of his two gold gloves that year.
Don't get me wrong. I love Adrian Beltre for everything he's done this year for the Red Sox. He's a very good hitter but his motivation has to be a question moving forward. It appears that he only plays well when there's money on the line. An extension would also leave the Sox with little flexibility in the offseason when Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder will likely hit the trade market. Kevin Youkilis could just slide over to third base if the Sox are able to find a power hitting first baseman.
It's simple: Pay Adrian Beltre and you will pay. Just ask Seattle.
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