Seattle fans ……you still love that Chone Figgins signing now? Wow, the Mariners went out a month ago and gave Figgins $36M to play third base for them over the next four years. Mariner fans applauded and given that signing, I had expected Adrian Beltre to command something in the neighborhood of a $33M contract over three years. After all, he is represented by Scott Boras and Scotty was talking up a huge “Beltre” game at the Winter Meetings. What a difference a month makes.
Lo and behold, Adrian Beltre is now in Boston for one year and the tidy sum of $10M. Count me in the “pleased” category and the bet here is there are a handful of Mariner fans out there who are none to pleased that the Ms got locked into four years when Beltre could have perhaps been snaged for one.
This move does not seem to be sitting well with a great number of Neanderthal RS fans, but as I wrote on December 10, a Beltre-for-Lowell swap makes plenty of sense. Beltre is basically a 31 year old Mike Lowell who sports a terrific glove and a bat that has played well outside of cavernous Safeco Field. On the other side of the ledger, you have Lowell, who is a personal favorite of mine, but a player who is clearly on the decline. Sure, eating Lowell’s $12.5M contract is a bit nauseating but the Sox have to think about the “now,” and Beltre is a clear upgrade. And when you throw in the fact that the Sox are only investing a year and $10M in this project, it is a no-brainer.
Now the Neanderthals will point to Beltre’s dismal 2009 season and his punk OBP numbers as evidence that this deal is doomed to failure. Oh yeah ….well, I will point to those robust road splits (.489 slugging from 07-09) and defensive metrics to say this is a real upgrade off the 2009 baseline. Beltre’s glove could very well save this team 20 runs next season and Fenway will surely suit him. Yeah, he might be a .325 OBP guy, but I can see him drilling 75 extras and slugging .500 if he is healthy. Folks, this guy hit on the road for the Mariners. The Sox now just need to get him started at home. For $10M, this is a frigging steal.
While the money is certainly attractive, the Sox big victory comes on the matter of duration. This one-year deal is the ultimate bridge and it does nothing to hurt the Sox flexibility going forward. I guess if it works out and Beltre mashes in Boston, the Sox will have forsaken the opportunity to lock this guy up. But as it stands, the Sox will now have the option of flipping Youkilis over to third in 2011, where his value soars, and securing a big bat at first. That bat could be Adrian Gonzalez, who is unlikely to be available for another ten months, or it could be Carlos Pena. Moreover, it could also be Lars Anderson as this deal will give the Sox another year to see how Anderson develops (Anthony Rizzo as well). If Lars rebounds this season and gets back on his original glide path, perhaps he will figure into the 2011 plan. This possibility would have been complicated if Beltre were locked up through 2012 and Youkilis were fixed at first. In other words, the Sox have bought themselves a year of development and that could come in handy when they are making big commitments down the road. Flexibility is a valuable commodity and the Sox just locked up plenty of it with this deal.
What are some of the other reverberations here? Well, first off, it certainly increases the pressure on the front office to deal Mike Lowell, because I don’t see how the roster can accommodate both Lowell and Casey Kotchman. The way I see it, if the Sox keep 12 pitchers on their 25-man roster, one of these guys has to go. And given the fact that Lowell, Beltre and Youkilis are all RH/3B, Lowell provides this club with almost no value. Sure, he could DH against lefties, but won’t that job fall to Victor Martinez when Jason Varitek catches games where the opposing pitcher is left-handed? At the end of the day, Lowell is awfully redundant to this club and the Sox will have to either eat that contract entirely or find some kind of deal once Lowell proves his thumb is alright. Whether that deal is with the Mets, the Rangers or a team to be named later, Mike Lowell’s time in Boston is over.
[For the Record, I don’t think he is a great fit for the Mets as a platoon at first. Lowell’s road numbers last season were pretty weak and his bat is unlikely to play well at Citi.]
A final and inescapable point worth mentioning here ….. when you account for Lowell and Julio Lugo, the Sox will now be paying $22M for their 2010 third basemen and another $14.5M for their shortstops. In other words, the Sox will be handing over 36 large for Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre. Luckily, this nightmare only has a shelf-life of a year as Lugo and Lowell are off the books next year but the Sox have got to break this habit of eating the crust off all these contracts. I guess we can only cross your fingers that Drew and Cameron don’t break down this year and stick the Sox with some more burnt crust in 2011.
All told, I am the first to say I am sorry to see Mike Lowell go. That guy was one of my personal favorites and I can’t help but think his presence will be missed in that clubhouse. That being said, if Beltre can hold up under the Boston lights and that shoulder is healed, he could be a very nice addition. I cautiously endorsed this deal a month ago when it looked like it could cost the Sox three years. A month later, with the Sox on the hook for just a year …… I almost LOVE it.