If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
This famous saying serves not only as a motivational tool, but also as a solid offseason philosophy for small-market general managers.
Twins general manager Bill Smith has made overtures for current free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre on two previous occasions and—if he’s smart—will be making one final effort this winter.
The Twins were linked to Beltre at the 2008 trade deadline and again last offseason. No deal was ever worked out, however, and Beltre finished out his five-year, $64 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
Now Beltre is a free agent, and the Twins would be wise to make one last ditch attempt to land him. Beltre makes even more sense now that he won’t cost the club any prospects in a trade or an outrageous extension to get him to waive a no-trade clause.
To that same effect, he is also a Type B free agent, so he wouldn’t cost the Twins a draft pick if the Mariners were to offer him arbitration.
And coming off a season in which he missed 50 games and hit just .265/.304/.379 with just eight home runs and 44 RBI, his value is lower than ever. Thus he is potentially affordable for the Twins, figuring he would command much less than the $12 million he made in 2009.
Beltre does have some lingering health concerns after missing time in recent seasons with injuries to his shoulders, thumb, wrist, hamstring, and—worst of all—his right testicle. In the last year, Beltre underwent two shoulder surgeries and ligament-replacement surgery on his left thumb.
Despite being banged up for the past few years, this season marked the first time since 2001 that he failed to play at least 140 games.
Making Beltre even more attractive to the Twins is his age. Although he has seemingly been in the league forever, Beltre won’t turn 31 until April and, if healthy, could have a nice bounce-back year hitting in a lineup that offers much more protection than he’s had in his time with Seattle.
For his part, Beltre would provide the Twins with some much-needed right-handed pop to balance out the lefty-heavy heart of the lineup.
Although he’ll certainly never repeat the monster 2004 campaign that earned him his last deal, he can be counted on for a solid .270/.325/.453 line with 20 to 25 home runs, 80 to 90 RBI, and even 10 to 15 stolen bases.
The prospect of adding Beltre to the lineup is made even more interesting when one accounts for the fact that his numbers have largely been suppressed by playing the majority of his game at Safeco Field the past five seasons.
Safeco is notoriously tough on right-handed sluggers like Beltre.
Outside of Seattle, one could expect Beltre to thrive. He's a career .287/.338/.488 hitter in road games as opposed to the .253/.311/.416 career line he’s posted at home.
In essence, he is a healthier version of Joe Crede: decent pop, great glove, and a penchant for swinging at bad pitches. His health, as opposed to Crede’s, makes him the smarter investment going forward.
Many reports indicate that Twins management isn’t sold on the idea of handing top-prospect Danny Valencia the starting third-base job out of spring training, if at all, next season.
With that in mind, the Twins may be looking for more than a short-term solution.
It is entirely possible that Beltre—in a market flooded with third basemen—could settle for a two-year deal with an option, thus making him the perfect choice for the Twins.
It is, however, also entirely possible that, despite last season’s injuries and poor production, Beltre may still be out of the Twins' price range.
One thing is certain, Beltre is the exact type of player the Twins should be looking for at third base.
If his market is slow to develop, the Twins must try, try again.