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Adrian Beltre has been fantastic for the Red Sox in 2010. If it weren't for him, the Red Sox record would be a lot worse than it currently is.
But his career year will certainly pay dividends when he opts out of the final year of his contract and hits the free-agent market.
For all intents and purposes, Beltre has been the best third baseman in baseball this season. His 28 home runs, 182 hits, 46 doubles, .322 batting average, and .927 OPS lead the majors at his position.
Sabermetrically, Beltre has been off the charts this year. His 68.7 RAR (runs above replacement player) and 7.1 WAR each rank third in all of baseball this year.
His defense has been stellar, too. Despite committing 18 errors this year, his 11.9 UZR (ultimate zone rating) is still in the top ten in baseball, regardless of position.
Not only that, Beltre has been a great addition to the clubhouse, and his personality and mental toughness is right at home with gamers like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.
Generally all these characteristics would be things that would entice the Red Sox into bringing Beltre back. But his MVP-caliber year will work against the Sox when it comes to free-agent negotiations and opposing offers.
It also doesn't help that these numbers are extremely out of character for Beltre. His last season like this came in 2004 with the Dodgers, also in a contract year.
Beltre's numbers have been fantastic this year, but it would be unrealistic to think that he would be able to maintain his play over multiple seasons.
While Beltre's power may actually be indicative of a switch from the vast expanse of SafeCo field to the hitter friendly Fenway Park, his average is most certainly a mirage. Just a career .275 hitter, Beltre is a free swinger who doesn't walk much. Because of this, when his average goes down so will his OBP.
Probably the biggest factor in Beltre leaving Boston would be his agent, Scott Boras. Boras is notorious for getting the best deals possible for his players and is widely regarded as the best agent in baseball.
Beltre will be 32 next year, and the Red Sox won't likely offer Beltre a deal for more than three years. Boras would most certainly be pushing the envelope for four or even five years at upwards of $60 million. With a player like Beltre, number of years offered could be the most important element to where he signs.
So, you ask, how does all of this affect Prince Fielder?
If Beltre leaves, a hole opens up at third that would be filled by current Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Equally skilled at both first and third, Youkilis could make the transition easily. All of a sudden the Red Sox need a first baseman. Enter Prince Fielder.