I saw a post on mlbtraderumors.com quoting uber-agent Scott Boras as stating he has never seen more interest in a player than he is currently receiving for client Adrian Beltre.
Most likely, that is just puffery by Boras, who well understands how important it is to throw as much bull up against the wall as possible, since at least some of it will stick in the minds of MLB’s general managers.
One thing is for certain, though. Whoever signs Beltre will pay top dollar. That is the first, second and last thing 90 percent of the players who choose Boras as their agent are looking for.
Whoever ponies up for Beltre will likely regret it. Don’t get me wrong—on balance Beltre is a fine third baseman, but whoever signs him will almost certainly pay way more than what he’ll actually be worth for the life of the contract.
Beltre is essentially a great defensive third baseman who is no better than mediocre or a little above average as an offensive player, except that he has had two fantastic seasons with the bat completely out of line with his career norms.
Beltre established himself as a major league regular at age 20 in 1999, and for the first two years he absolutely looked like he would be a future superstar, posting OPS numbers of .780 at age 20 and .835 at age 21.
Then he hit a wall, posting OPS numbers over the next three seasons of .720, .729 and .714. Those are decent numbers for a third baseman with Beltre’s glove, but hardly what you look for in a superstar or even a player who can carry a team.
At age 25, Beltre finally broke out and looked like he was going to be the superstar everyone had predicted and been waiting on since the late ’90′s.
He hit .334 with 48 HRs and a 1.017 OPS, while playing his home games at Dodger Stadium, a graveyard for hitters.
The Mariners rewarded Beltre with a five-year contract for $64 million after his monster 2004 season. In the greater scheme of MLB, that really isn’t that much money, and Beltre played reasonably well for the money the first four season as a Mariner, posting OPS numbers of .716, .792, .802 and .784.
Again, you can build a winning team with a third baseman with those offensive numbers who fields like Beltre.
However, it’s worth noting that the M’s failed to make the post season in any of Beltre’s five seasons in Seattle and finished under .500 three of those five seasons. Thus, it’s difficult to argue the Mariners got what they were paying for when the signed Beltre.
In 2009, Beltre’s OPS fell to an ugly .683, and given the bad state of the economy, the Red Sox were able to sign Beltre for a one-year deal at $9 million.
The Red Sox figured that Beltre, who was still only 31 in 2010, would have an offensive bounce moving from Safeco Field to Fenway. The Red Sox were right, and Beltre had a terrific season, hitting .328 with 79 extra base hits and posting a .919 OPS.
Odds are Beltre will never post an OPS over .900 again. Beltre was 31 in 2010, which, at least before the Age of Steroids, was usually the last year of a player’s prime seasons.
Beltre probably won’t be playing his home games in a hitters’ park as good as Fenway next year, and with eight seasons in his career below an .800 OPS and only two above an .850 OPS, you have to figure that Beltre will be lucky to have even one season significantly over .800 on the multi-year deal he’s likely to sign.
The only way I can see Beltre being worth the money he’s going to get on this contract is if the team that signs him is a third baseman away from post-season success in the next two or three seasons. Otherwise, they’ll likely regret the contract, the same way the Mariners did.