Ramble On Sports

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Up next for the Red Sox…….Adrian Beltre?

Posted by Bill Koch on January 5, 2010

Adrian Beltre

I’ve officially run out of answers for what Theo Epstein is trying to accomplish this offseason.

Monday brought another curious signing by the Boston Red Sox, as they inked third baseman Adrian Beltre to a one-year, $10-million deal with a $5 million player option for 2011. Beltre presumably will replace Mike Lowell, who has one year remaining on the three-year contract he signed after winning World Series MVP honors in 2007.

Beltre joins John Lackey and Mike Cameron as Boston’s headliners in its free agent class thus far, a group of 30-somethings who will cost the Red Sox $35.25 million in 2010. I don’t see how those three players will justify those paychecks with their respective performances on the field, and Beltre has the potential to be the worst of the bunch.

Beltre just finished up a five-year, $64-million hijacking of the Seattle Mariners that he earned based on his monster 2004 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a year that screamed STEROID USE in bold print. Beltre led the National League with 48 home runs, drove in 121 and compiled an OPS of 1.017. He hit .334, scored 104 runs and cracked 200 hits. The 30-year-old Beltre (who turns 31 in April) never came close to replicating those numbers with the Mariners, coming closest in 2007 when he hit .276 with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs. Beltre’s OPS that year was a timid .802, the only time in Seattle that he topped the .800 mark. Last year he played in a career-low 111 games, hitting just eight home runs and posting a pathetic .683 OPS. Before that monster season Beltre’s career highs in home runs (23), RBIs (85), OPS (.835) and batting average (.290) weren’t even close to the year where he “suddenly” put it all together and backed up the Brinks truck to his front door.

The statistical angle that Epstein and the rest of the analysts might try to spin here is the age-old argument of runs allowed vs. runs scored. They’ll cite Beltre’s defensive superiority to Lowell and point to Beltre’s seven straight seasons where he committed less than 20 errors at third base. Fact is that Beltre made 14 errors last year despite limited playing time and that just about anyone would be an upgrade over Lowell last season, a man who was clearly a shell of himself while battling a right hip injury that’s forced him to the operating table twice. Unless Beltre suddenly turns into Brooks Robinson at third base, his defensive impact can’t possibly trump his offensive deficiencies at that price tag.

This appears to be the official end of the Lowell Era in Boston, a process that was set in motion when Boston tried to trade Lowell to the Texas Rangers and agreed to pay $9 million of his $12 million salary in 2010. The deal fell through when Lowell failed his physical and subsequently underwent surgery on an injured right thumb, but he’ll be ready in time to get shipped out just before the start of spring training. Now that Boston has signed Beltre, the Rangers could easily screw the Red Sox into paying the entire $12 million. It’s going to be hard for Boston to take even Lowell, a consummate professional and popular presence in the Red Sox clubhouse, back into the fold without any ill will coming from either side.

I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m scanning the internet every day for news of a big trade involving Boston and any other club for a power bat to pair with Victor Martinez in the middle of the batting order or a stud arm to join the Red Sox rotation. I’m starting to think that day might not come, and I’m losing more and more faith in Epstein as a result. I’m done trying to explain his decisions, because I’m not sure anyone can but the guy Epstein sees in the mirror every morning.

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6 Responses to “Up next for the Red Sox…….Adrian Beltre?”

  1. Collin said

    I don’t know, I don’t think you’re giving enough credit to either Cameron Beltre, especially for the price. Fangraphs has Beltre as one of the top ten defenders in all of baseball for the past two years, and Cameron can do three things really well (hit for power, get on base and play defense), although the defense has slipped a bit.

    I mean, it would be great for the Sox if they could go out and pick up an Adrian Gonzalez for a good price. But, that said, I think the Sox (and Epstein) have had an excellent off-season.

  2. bigblue123 said

    I agree mostly with your Beltre analysis- — one point though is that he has always hit much better on the road than in Seattle – -2009 279ba vs 250ba — 2008 292ba vs 240 ba — — 2007 288ba vs 264 ba — – -2006 283ba vs 251ba. The power numbers also bear up the fact that he hit better on the road than in Seattle. My big concerns are 31 yrs old and the steroid rumors– are there injuries coming?

  3. Collin said

    bigblue123 – the home/road split is a good point and something I forgot in my first post. According to Keith Law’s column, there was a 100 point difference between home and road slugging averages, and Seattle’s park is murder on righties anyway. So there will be some uptick in numbers just on that basis alone. Still though, I think the massive defensive upgrade is worth it; that has a lot of value in and of itself.

  4. Steve A said

    I am very satisfied with the Sox moves this offseason. They got high draft picks from Atlanta for signing Wagner, and the Mets for signing
    Bay. I like the fact that they have signed Lackey as insurance in case they do trade Bucholz. Their rotation will be very good with Lackey, Lester, Beckett, Bucholz and the Dice man. I think their defense has been upgraded in all facets. Although I am not a fan of the Scutaro deal, he should be a modest upgrade at the plate over Alex Gonzalez. I would love to see Adrian gonzalez in a red sox uniform but not at the cost of Ellsbury. Most importantly this offseason, Theo has not made the ridiulous deal. He has left enough payroll flexibility to make a big midseason trade or to go after Mauer next offseason. He has also protected himself in the very likely case that Beckett over values himself
    next offseason.
    I think Theo is really taking a long range view this offseason and has really set the Red Sox up for future success.

    One other comment. The dropoff in production from Bay to Cameron is going to be minimal. Cameron loves the spotlight and strikes out at about the same rate as Jason Bay. Can’t wait for pitchers and catchers

  5. Adam H said

    Please argue that Beltre is not going to save runs with his defense after watching this video:

  6. Adam H said

    Watch that video all the way to the end. Its laughable.

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