Adrian Beltre

Dave · November 4, 2004 at 7:08 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Continuing with the short profiles on upcoming free agents, this one will be shorter than most others. Thanks to some in depth conversations we had on Beltre earlier this year, I thought I already wrote him up, but realized that I have not. We have two pretty good threads on him here and here, if you’re looking for more talk about Beltre. On to the mini-mini-article.

How much has Adrian Beltre improved his stock in the past year? Consider this quote from an August 4th, 2003 article by Peter Gammons: Will Adrian Beltre even get a big league, $500,000 contract next spring?

At that point, Beltre was in the middle of a .240/.290/.424 season and posting his third consecutive disappointing season. At the age of 24, he didn’t appear to be getting any better. Heading into this season, PECOTA projected him to hit .257/.311/.442, a modest increase but still an average player. Instead, he hit .334/.388/.629 and was one of the best players in baseball. The improvement was of historic proportions; it was just a huge leap over his last three years, which causes many to feel that it was an outlier and he’ll return to mediocrity after signing an enormous contract this fall.

I don’t happen to be in that category. You’ll hear quite often that 2004 was Beltre’s “first good year”, but that’s not really true. In 1999, at the age of 20, Beltre hit .275/.352/.428, drew 61 walks, and tossed in 18 stolen bases for good measure. The next year, still just 21, he hit .290/.360/.475, and all the markers pointed towards superstardom. He dominated the minor leagues, coming up through the system as a teenager and being annointed as the top prospect in baseball. He was already a terrific performer by age 21, and the performance matched the hype. There was little reason to think Beltre wouldn’t become one of the premier talents in major league baseball.

Then, in 2001, he had an emergency apendectomy in the Dominican Republic which went very wrong. He lost huge amounts of weight and strength and had to have several corrective medical procedures aimed at getting him healthy. It didn’t work, and he proceeded to struggle through the season. 2002 and 2003 brought the same mediocrity, but 2004 saw the return of Beltre’s talents. He has a history of being a terrific talent, and 2004 was not the first time he had flashed the potential to be a superstar.

So how good was Beltre last year? Once you factor in his terrific defense at third base, he was probably the second best player in the game. VORP ranks him 5th offensively, but Helton, Pujols, and Guerrero offer significantly less with the glove. But read those namees again; rather than splitting hairs, just look at the company he’s in. Bonds. Pujols. Guerrero. Adrian Beltre is pretty freaking good. At his prime level, he’s not a second tier star; he’s an MVP candidate.

How good should we expect Beltre to be in the future? That’s a bit trickier. It’s hard to believe that his .334 average was for real, after posting BA’s in the .260 range for most of his career. While his increased power certainly helped, he also saw a dramatic increase in the amount of singles as a percentage of non-HR balls in play (22 % in 2004, 15 % career). Singles are notoriously inconsistent, so for the sake of argument, let’s assume he reverts back to his career norm. That would cost him 32 singles, and his BA would plummet from .334 to .281, which would still be good enough to make an all-star player. However, I don’t believe we can realistcally assume that all the improvement was noise; he was geniunely hitting the crap out of the ball last year, and hard hit balls are obviously more likely to get through than dribblers up the line. At worst, I think we can take away about 15 or 20 singles, which would still leave him as a .300 hitter.

So, we have a player who has shown the ability to be an upper level talent and will likely continue to be, is a free agent at the age of 25, and plays a position of great need for the Mariners. He’s tremendous offensively and defensively. A 7 year contract doesn’t commit you into his decline phase. And because of his mediocre seasons from 2001-2003, he’s going to come at a bit of a discount, compared to the other upper echelon free agents.

He’s just about the perfect free agent for this team. Sign him. Sign him now.


64 Responses to “Adrian Beltre”

  1. paul mocker on November 4th, 2004 4:33 pm

    Jeremy Reed:

    We should be working on his projections rather than Beltre or Beltran since we have him locked up.

    Dave mentioned that he played over his head and an OPS+ of 155 would indicate that. His slugging of .466 was good; however he had only 4 doubles and NO HOME RUNS. I don’t think his power was substantially above projected.

    Who are his comparables? He will be 24 in 2005. BB-ref does not list any? Would someone with BPro membership please list the PECOTA comps, if you don’t mind.

  2. M.O. on November 4th, 2004 6:47 pm

    PECOTA Comps for Jeremy Reed:
    Rank Hitter Year Score Trend
    1 Francona, Terry 1982 56
    2 Gwynn, Tony 1983 52
    3 Turner, Jerry 1977 49
    4 Office, Rowland 1975 49
    5 James, Dion 1985 49
    6 Mattingly, Don 1984 47
    7 Erstad, Darin 1997 47
    8 Alou, Matty 1962 43
    9 Thomasson, Gary 1974 42
    10 Boswell, Ken 1969 41
    11 Tolan, Bobby 1968 40
    12 Bosley, Thad 1979 40
    13 Blair, Paul 1967 38
    14 Upshaw, Willie 1980 36
    15 McAuliffe, Dick 1962 36
    16 Driessen, Dan 1974 36
    17 Johnstone, Jay 1968 35
    18 Jones, Dalton 1966 35
    19 Buckner, Bill 1972 35
    20 Russell, Bill 1971 34

    Pretty nice company…

  3. Dave on November 4th, 2004 6:58 pm

    Those comps are from last season. They’ll get worse after he had a pretty mediocre season in Triple-A.

  4. M Kubecka on November 4th, 2004 8:05 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with #45! When have the M’s ever opened up their wallets? Only on the order of Yamauchi – to give Ichiro big bucks, and to Sasaki ($8M ?). It would be great if they break tradition, but I’ll be surprised to see it happen. They will probably go with mid-range players at mid-range prices.

  5. joebob on November 4th, 2004 8:33 pm

    So someone tell me I’m wrong here:

    C – Olivo .3
    DH – Jacobsen .3
    1b – Ibanez 3.75
    2b – Boone 9
    3b – Beltre 9
    lf – Reed .3
    cf – Beltran 9
    rf – Ichiro 10.5
    b – Speizio 3.1
    b – Wilson 1
    b – FAMI .75 (Free Agent Middle Infielder)
    b – FAUT .75 (Free Agent Utility)
    b – Strong .3
    sp – Moyer 7.5
    sp – Clement 6
    sp – Piniero 4.3
    sp – Meche 3
    sp – Madritsch .3
    cl – guardado 4.5
    rs – hasegawa 3
    ls – sherrill .3
    mr – putz .3
    mr – mateo .3
    lr – franklin 2.4

    Not on team: cirillo 4.78, jarvis .5, gonzalez 2.25

    Benefits: 7.4

    Total 96 million (figures above are rounded and probably won’t add up exactly to 96 mil)

    The point is why the hell don’t we go hard after Beltre, Beltran and Clement, it’s well within our budget withou even having to raise it up near or over 100 million. At the very least we should be able to sign beltre, clement and an of/1b like delgado, ordonez, drew, sexson, etc. I really think the team above has a good shot at a playoff spot, why wouldn’t we try to put it together?

  6. joebob on November 4th, 2004 8:36 pm

    and for those who are going to say the obvious, beltre and beltran will cost more than 9 or 10 million a year, here are the contracts I would offer them:

    Beltre 9m 13m 14m 14m 14m 15m 16m: 7year 95 million
    Beltran 10m 14m 15m 16m 16m 17m 17m: 7 year 105 million
    Clement 6m 8m 10m 2m: 3 year 24 million option for 12 million in 4th year

  7. joebob on November 4th, 2004 8:51 pm

    Oh and I assume we trade Winn for bupkis

  8. Rebecca Allen on November 5th, 2004 12:14 am

    I’ve said it before and will say it again, you’re dreaming. The M’s are not going to go after high-priced, long-term-contract free agents (except for show, a la Tejada). Period. The organizational structure, with a lot of owners having to agree, just doesn’t allow for risk-taking. The only way this team will ever be successful again is via the draft and the minor league system.

  9. The Ancient Mariner on November 6th, 2004 12:44 am

    Well, Rebecca, terry, et al.: Time will tell.

  10. Gargoyle on November 6th, 2004 5:47 am

    Which one would you rather have?

    Player One (Very good defender at power position)

    Age 21: .303/.355/.474
    Age 22: .227/.328/.420
    Age 23: .314/.391/.636

    Player Two (Awesome defender)

    Age 22: .299/.360/.466
    Age 23: .296/.353/.486
    Age 24: .355/.409/.541

    Player Three (Very good defender)

    Age 20: .275/.352/.428
    Age 21: .290/.360/.475
    Age 22-24: Worse
    Age 25: .334/.388/.629

    Player 3 (Adrian Beltre) would probably be my last choice. Player 1 and Player 2 are Richard Hidalgo and Darin Erstad. A seven year contract would be ridiculous, in my opinion. Maybe a three year contract to see if his improvement sticks, but I would never do even that. Factoring in the AL’s superiority to the NL and the AL West in particular, along with being in Safeco, I’d be surprised to see Beltre match his raw 2003 numbers. Hell, I’d give Justin Leone a 25% chance of having a better year than Beltre next year.

    Nobody has EVER gone from years like Beltre’s 2001-2003, had a year like his 2004, and had most of that improvement stick. Out of about ten trillion pro baseball players in recorded history, not a single one (unless I’m missing one). If you think Beltre’s improvement will stick, you might as well sign Luis Ugueto to a seven year, $50 million contract because you think he’ll hit .300/.400/.600 for those years and have the contract run out before his decline phase. No baseball player has ever performed like that before with his history, but why not this time?

    (I concede Dave is smarter than me, though, and the Beltre talk is probably the only thing he’s ever said on the Internet that I didn’t think was genius.)

  11. The Ancient Mariner on November 6th, 2004 12:16 pm

    Gargoyle, a) that’s hugely overstated (Ugueto? Please . . .), and b) that underscores the fact that players aren’t merely stat lines. Is there a chance Beltre’s ’04 was a fluke? Certainly; there’s a chance pretty much anything could happen. There’s a chance Barry Bonds could suddenly become a popular and well-liked player. However, thorough investigation would suggest the chance of that is low.

  12. The Ancient Mariner on November 6th, 2004 12:21 pm

    Oops–hit “Enter” when I didn’t mean to. Anyway, as I was saying, yes, there’s a chance this is a fluke season on Beltre’s part; imho, however, when you take a good look at the player and his situation, that doesn’t seem very likely. True, the stat line would be unprecedented in baseball history, but then, so was his medical situation.

  13. Dave on November 6th, 2004 10:13 pm

    Nobody has EVER gone from years like Beltre’s 2001-2003, had a year like his 2004, and had most of that improvement stick.

    This is just wrong. There are so many examples to disprove it, but I don’t have time to pick them all out. Here’s a few.

    Sammy Sosa:

    20: .257/.303/.366
    21: .233/.282/.404
    22: .203/.240/.335
    23: .260/.317/.393
    24: .261/.309/.485
    25: .300/.339/.545

    Gary Sheffield:

    20: .247/.303/.337
    21: .294/.350/.421
    22: .194/.277/.320
    23: .330/.385/.580

    Jose Guillen:

    21: .267/.300/.412
    22: .267/.298/.414
    23: .253/.315/.340
    24: .253/.320/.430
    25: .274/.317/.378
    26: .238/.287/.367
    27: .311/.359/.569

  14. The Ancient Mariner on November 7th, 2004 3:56 pm

    Thanks for that correction, Dave (though I don’t see that either Sheffield or Guillen is really on point).