Is Adrian Beltre the worst free agent signing ever?

DMZ · May 5, 2006 at 10:07 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Today’s fun venture into random comments or emails!
Warning! Contains condescension, sarcasm, and weariness

Adrian Beltre is the worst free agent signing ever.

This is one of the most ridiculous and uninformed statements ever to waste our electrons here, the kind of lazy exaggeration that turns the mundane into the blissful or the unsufferable. If you know anything about baseball, if you pay attention at all, it takes about ten, fifteen seconds if you’re asleep to come up with worse deals, and if you’re totally ignorant, a couple of minutes informs you so you know better. There’s no excuse for making this kind of error.

Beltre doesn’t have one of the top 25 deals in baseball. Among those who are clearly right now in the middle of worse deals: Chan Ho Park ($15.5m), Mike Hampton ($14.5m).

In baseball history, you’re awash in choices, especially if we include players felled by injury — Mo Vaughn! Darren Driefor’s LA contract is, strictly in terms of production for dollar, the worst signing in baseball history (I used VORP for that, btw).

Or, to sum up: no.


96 Responses to “Is Adrian Beltre the worst free agent signing ever?”

  1. Adam S on May 5th, 2006 3:04 pm

    Given that many people (DMZ included) thought Beltre would do well BEFORE we signed him, it’s hard to call it homerism. Look at the USSM off-season plan from two years ago.

  2. Steve T on May 5th, 2006 3:06 pm

    What people have a hard time accepting is that predictions can be wrong. That doesn’t make them bad predictions. Anti-stathead people have always said “you were wrong on this guy, so your method is bushwa”. But baseball is not science, it’s probabilities. Beltre was a well-supported idea. Hasn’t worked out (yet). That’s too bad, but signing him was still a good decision based on what was known THEN.

    When analysts perfect the time machine and gain 100% accuracy, baseball will start being boring. But it’ll never happen, because when they do, they’ll be too busy playing the market to worry about the game.

  3. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2006 3:21 pm

    Why do we insist on overlooking Beltre’s superior defense? It’s no small thing, folks. It’s a huge part of his value, and he hasn’t lost a bit of it.

  4. msb on May 5th, 2006 3:29 pm

    harkening back to an earlier discussion, apparently, Jim Moore’s column today did one good thing, it reminded Gros&Gas of Jeff Hoyt & Ken Boynton’s 2001 imaginary Texas/Mariners game (originally done for Rewind) with the Texas broadcasters tucking in some new sponsorships to help the Rangers pay for acquiring Alex — KJR plans to get a link to it up on their site, but it is also still available on the NPR site.

  5. terry on May 5th, 2006 3:31 pm

    I was just adding some cynicism to the condescension, sarcasm, and weariness… i sometimes forget that cynicism doesn’t always work in black and white…

    baseball is not probabilities….. sabermetrics is a science that models baseball events to assign probabilities in order to predict baseball events…

    baseball in it’s purest form is an analogy for life and baseball players are warrior poets on the field…..thus in many ways sabermetrics can both enhance AND diminish the beauty of this silly game that means more than I’m sure it’s creators intended or could have ever envisioned….

  6. Smegmalicious on May 5th, 2006 3:32 pm

    Too true. The guy has good range superior hands and an absolute cannon for an arm. Did you guys see him turn that 3-5-1 double play the other night when they had the Thome shift on? He glided over the bag like he’d done it a million times. The guy is a really good athlete.

  7. Jack Howland on May 5th, 2006 3:33 pm

    47 – Even then, I’m going to go with Chan Ho Park, the signing that destroyed a franchise. Park’s contract — not ARod’s, as is commonly claimed — crippled the damn Rangers for four years.

    How can you say that? Park made $65M over the five years. The Rangers are paying Alex $71M over seven years to play for the Yankees. That’s on top of the $69.5M that they paid him for his three years of service. I can’t imagine how you can claim that one or the other of these deals is solely responsible for the crippling.

  8. terry on May 5th, 2006 3:33 pm

    Yes Jim but at some point inferior offense diminishes the value of superior defense… although I’m sure D. Mientkiewicz would tend to agree with you rather than me….

  9. Celadus on May 5th, 2006 3:35 pm

    My suggestion is that people not rewrite their own memories. When the Mariners signed Beltre I was excited and from what I was reading most of the Mariner blogverse was excited.

    I’m not going to start criticizing the Mariner upper management, however I may dislike them for other actions, for taking a step that I entirely agreed with and, indeed, praised them for.

    I also, as I recall, was very critical of the St. Louis Cardinals for trading young superstar Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith.

    My point is this: if you remember accurately what you were excited about and what you were critical of when it pertains to a team’s management’s actions, you can modify your own judgments in a positive way.

    My other point is this: given all the criticism of Mariner management for the Beltre signing, and given the popularity of that move at the time it was made, some of you out there have erased part of your memories and replaced them with something else. It’s hard to learn from mistakes when you retroactively don’t make any.

  10. Evan on May 5th, 2006 3:39 pm

    Most Mariner fans were calling for the team to sign Beltran instead of Beltre. I’m still glad we got Beltre (though I get less glad every time Grover sits Reed).

  11. msb on May 5th, 2006 3:49 pm

    this, of course, doesn’t take into account the fact that Kendall actually did try to get out of the way of the pitch, and succeeded, which is why Lackey didn’t walk in a run right there.

    I see that Lackey is trying to calm things down in his usual concilatory manner 🙂 …. “I threw a breaking ball and he kind of stuck his little elbow guard out there,” Lackey said.

  12. Steve T on May 5th, 2006 3:54 pm

    Jack Howland: you’re confusing the issue. The money they’re paying the Yankees has nothing to do with the FREE AGENT SIGNING, which is the question here. That money is the result of the trade for Soriano. If anything, their willingness to part with the cash in addition to ARod indicates that the money was not the worst part of the deal.

    Alex Rodriguez provided the Rangers with outstanding, MVP, Hall of Fame, potentially the best player in the history of baseball caliber shortstop for the money. That didn’t hurt the Rangers; it helped them. Park on the other hand got almost as much money but SUCKED HORRIBLY. He was one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball; frankly, he shouldn’t have been in a major league uniform, and the only reason he was was the $65 million. $69.5 million for dozens and dozens of extra wins wasn’t the problem with the Rangers; $65 million for dozens of extra losses was.

    I can’t believe I’m explaining this to someone AGAIN.

  13. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 3:55 pm

    I don’t want to hijack the thread, but [deleted, off-topic]

  14. PositivePaul on May 5th, 2006 3:57 pm

    It seems we’re forgetting something. Where did Bavasi come from immediately before he was hired by the M’s? Exactly. The Dodgers. In fact, he was Director of Player Development — chief in charge of the Dodgers’ minor leagues.

    One of the things I said in my blog and other blogs before the M’s signed Beltre is that Bavasi should have had quite a decent handle on Beltre and what he would bring to the table in Seattle. You think he was too busy overseeing the Dodgers’ farm system not to know the inside scoop on Beltre?

    If there’s any GM in baseball (at the time of Beltre’s signing) that knew what Beltre would bring to his team, it would’ve been Bavasi. That’s one of the things I was using as an argument against those who said “No way the M’s sign Beltre!” Bavasi would’ve had to have argued hard to Howard and Chuck as to why it was “safe” to spend that much money on Beltre.

  15. msb on May 5th, 2006 3:57 pm

    They say you do have to get out of the way. Try & get that called, though…

  16. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2006 3:58 pm

    #58: I agree. I wonder if research has been done to determine just what that point is, other than a VORP score.

  17. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2006 4:03 pm

    All this is sound and fury signifying virtually nothing, really. Beltre, with his contract, is virtually untradeable. If he hits .184, you stick him in the 8-hole and live with it. Benching him does nobody any good. Releasing him is stupid, and you wouldn’t get more for him in a trade than MAYBE a middling prospect (and only then if you promised to eat a bunch of his salary.)

    We can be upset about him all we want, but he isn’t coming out of the lineup — nor should he be taken out. You just keep working with him and hope you push the right buttons.

  18. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 4:05 pm

    Didn’t Beltre really break out in LA after they moved him to the 7-hole?

  19. Jack Howland on May 5th, 2006 4:37 pm

    If anything, their willingness to part with the cash in addition to ARod indicates that the money was not the worst part of the deal.

    Steve T: This is the part that I don’t understand the most.

  20. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 4:42 pm

    Back on topic, I think Mo or Chan Ho have to be the worst signings I can think of (although I’m sure there have been plenty of other horrible signings I just don’t remember).

    A-Rod put up the numbers that they expected when they signed him. Mo and Chan Ho didn’t come anywhere near their expected contributions.

    They may have overpaid for A-Rod, but I overpay for beer at the bar, and that doesn’t mean it’s a horrible beer (or a horrible purchase, just maybe not the smartest decision financially)!

  21. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 4:54 pm

    My fault for #63. My apologies..

  22. Jack Howland on May 5th, 2006 4:55 pm

    A-Rod obviously put up great numbers. Nobody doubts that. But that doesn’t mean that overcompensating for his services just doesn’t matter. It seems as though this same argument could be made had he signed for $250M, $500M, or $1B. He had a great year so the amount of money just doesn’t matter.

  23. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 5:01 pm

    I’m not trying to say that the over compensation doesn’t matter. They never should have made him that offer, because it wasn’t a good deal.

    But if you pay too much for a car, but it ends up doing everything it was advertised to do (or more), does that make it a horrible deal, or just “not the best deal you could have had”?

    I just don’t think A-Rods deal belongs in quite the same category as some others where they paid a ton of money, and really got nothing in return. At least the Rangers got what they expected out of A-Rod.

  24. Eleven11 on May 5th, 2006 5:07 pm

    A bad FA signing is where you sign a guy for big bucks who has a minimal chance of being successful, plenty mentioned above. Also a bad signing is where you give years to declining players. Signing Beltre was a good move that so far has collapsed. Who knew? Carl Everett vesting is bad.

  25. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 5:10 pm

    Sometimes I swear it’s just dumb luck. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be nearly the number of busts (or surprises)!

  26. Dave in Palo Alto on May 5th, 2006 5:11 pm

    It certainly wasn’t a bad signing at the time. The team needed a third baseman and got the best on the market.

    Nor has it turned out to be the contract producing the least value in hindsight. I think Washburn is worse, but the unknown future should not be the grading metric for a GM. How good did the Lyman Bostock deal look after the fact?

  27. Thingray on May 5th, 2006 5:15 pm

    Well, thank you everybody for the lively debate, time for this guy to get out of the office and celebrate Cinco De Mayo (as all good Irish people do!).

    And again, my apologies for the off-topic stuff. What was I thinking starting with “I don’t want to hijack the thread…”?

    I don’t know, I guess my brain left the office before my body.

    Go M’s!!

  28. Mat on May 5th, 2006 5:23 pm

    Looking back at the Chan Ho Park contract, how bad was it? Granted, he wasn’t going to repeat his numbers from LA in Texas, thanks to a big park effect jump, but he was a pretty groundball/flyball neutral pitcher, and even managed a 1.2 HR/9 non-park adjusted HR rate during his tenure with Texas. Not great, but certainly not an Eric Milton-style debacle.

    Other than giving a pitcher a 5-year deal, were there injury warning signs? Park had been able to pitch 190+ innings for 5 straight seasons before getting to Texas, and his pitcher abuse points were on the high side, but not anything you’d get especially worried about in and of themselves. And Park was 29 at the time the contract was signed, passed the point where you worry about injuries as a prospect grows, and not that old that you’d expect him to decline for another couple of years.

    It was probably a bad contract, just because you have to be really, really sure to give a 5-year deal to a pitcher, and I don’t know if teams like Texas and Colorado should do that until they see how a pitcher holds up pitching half his games at a launching pad, but what the Rangers got was certainly something of a worst-case scenario.

    I guess my point is, that with Park, you could’ve at least expected some positive value out of the contract. He was a solid, if unspectacular pitcher, who was being overpaid. For my money, I think the Eric Milton contract was probably worse. $24M/3 years for someone with a career 0.60 G/F to pitch in Cincinnati? He had solid K/BB numbers, but always had problems pitching from the stretch. (Milton had some insane none on/runners on splits that should’ve given GMs pause. In 2002, while healthy, hitters were .207/.242/.349 with no one on and .350/.377/.583 when Milton was pitching from the stretch. And it really wasn’t all that fluky, as he’s been .245/.298/.437 vs. .304/.350/.528 for his career.)

    Anyway, this got to be a lot longer than it should have been, but I think there’s a case to be made for a 5 year/$60M deal for a slightly above average player being a better contract than a 3 year/$24M deal for a player who’s below average.

  29. DMZ on May 5th, 2006 5:25 pm

    I think almost everyone knew that was a bad deal. His road numbers away from LA were horrible, and for someone with his profile to move to a hitters park like Texas — that was a bad idea all around.

  30. ray on May 5th, 2006 5:27 pm

    Just for fun, can we Include Managers…. #2 BoMel, #1 Grover

  31. Rick L on May 5th, 2006 6:24 pm

    Beltre has been hitting better than most Mariners (Bloomquist, Ibanez, Betancourt, and Lopez excepted) the last few weeks. His batting average has come up about a hundred points. And his fielding is awesome. He hasn’t been worth the money we paid for him, but he is far from a bad player.

  32. Mat on May 5th, 2006 6:33 pm

    I think almost everyone knew that was a bad deal. His road numbers away from LA were horrible, and for someone with his profile to move to a hitters park like Texas — that was a bad idea all around.

    Damn, I forgot about those road numbers. How does anyone get such consistently huge home/road ERA splits? In 2001, for instance, he only allowed 3 more HR on the road, and had better strikeout and walk rates on the road than at home.

  33. jerful on May 5th, 2006 7:24 pm

    I think it was more obvious that the Beltre deal was not a good deal than the Park deal. You don’t have to look into even simple statistics like home/road splits or peripherals. You just had to realize that nobody in the history of baseball has ever had such a long string of major league mediocrity at the plate, had one great year, and maintained anything close to that improvement.

    You can have a good team when management doesn’t understand statistics, but you can’t have a good team when management believes in magic.

  34. NBarnes on May 5th, 2006 7:24 pm

    As a different perspective, Beltre isn’t even the worst free agent signing of that offseason. I’m sure the Yankees’ aquisition of The Dessicated Remains of Jaret Wright was worse, as was their ‘pickup’ of Pavano.

  35. BelaXadux on May 5th, 2006 8:32 pm

    The book on the Beltre signing is very much open. In $$$ risked, he’s not the worst. If Adrian hits like he did last year, it’s a failed signing, but not a catastrophe. If he hits this year at anything like he did in April . . . *yikes* It’s a ‘Vaughn Situation’ (Mo or Greg, take your pick), ’cause you really, really CAN’T keep playing a guy hitting like that, so the contract becomes a total loss. If that happened, the deal is certainly a semi-finalist for the Biggest Bust Ever in the free agency era. But I don’t expect Adrian to be quite that bad. Either way, we won’t have a read on that until this season’s over. “Too early to tell.”

  36. BelaXadux on May 5th, 2006 8:39 pm

    I will agree, though, the the Chan Ho Park deal in Texas is probably the stupidist signing I’ve ever seen. Park is far from worthless—except in that context, and the $$$$ figure was absurd for his career performance. That deal, to me, is Exibit A in the case for Scott Boras as Dr. Caligari.

  37. Jack Howland on May 5th, 2006 11:11 pm

    73- I just don’t think A-Rods deal belongs in quite the same category as some others where they paid a ton of money, and really got nothing in return. At least the Rangers got what they expected out of A-Rod.

    I agree that the Park deal was a horrible deal and that A-Rod has performed as expected. I do not agree that the Park signing was the defining deal that killed the Rangers as opposed to the A-Rod deal which was the orignal argument. After this year the Rangers will be done paying Park. On the other hand, the Rangers will be paying Alex approximately $10M/year until 2010 during which time he will be abusing the Rangers every trip that the Yankees make into Arlington or the Rangers make into the Bronx. Yes, the Rangers did get Alfonso Soriano who they paid approximately $14M over the three years. Assuming that he was worth $30M over those three years (which I think is extremely generous) and subracting the $14M that the Rangers paid him over those three years we come to the Rangers oweing approximately $55M to the Yankees for Arod over seven years. You may think that that is the equivalent of overpaying for a beer in Pioneer Square or even overpaying for a car, but in actuality it’s not even in the same ballpark.

  38. on May 6th, 2006 7:55 am

    DMZ – you do come off sounding a little defensive. Is this because of the constant cheerleading from yourself and others on this site leading up to the time of his signing?

    Of course Beltre isn’t one of the worst signings ever, but thus far (and he has lots of time to change this) he is certainly one of the M’s worst signings ever. Admittedly, you couldn’t have foreseen how precipitous the dropoff would be for Beltre’s production in his time with the M’s – no one could – but looking at the trendlines up to the time he was signed, it was clear ’04 was an anomaly and the contract he signed with the M’s was a risky one.

    Now that he’s performing so terribly, I wonder if your verbal eye-rolling at the mere mention of how bad the contract has to do (maybe just slightly) with how much you pushed for his signing?

  39. WordPlaze on May 6th, 2006 10:11 am

    Beltre was signed the off-season after he led the National League in Home Runs and was the runner-up for the league MVP. He hasn’t produced offensively yet, but he will. At some point during this contract, he’ll have an MVP-caliber year.

    For the season he had, the M’s probably signed him for 2-3 million below market. It was a good signing that hasn’t panned out yet.

  40. DMZ on May 6th, 2006 11:07 am

    It was not clear 04 was an absolute anamoly.

    If someone wants to say it’s a bad contract so far — yup. It’s horrible.

    To say it was a horrible gamble – well, others have spoken to that.
    To say it was unforgivably stupid – again, many people, including myself, had good reasons to support it, and that we’ve been wrong so far doesn’t mean they were stupid.
    To say it was the worst of all time – this is what drives me nuts. It’s the kind of lazy, uninformed belief that destroys intelligent conversation, delivered with the confidence of the ignorant. It’s not the worst of all time. There’s just no way.

  41. Adam S on May 6th, 2006 11:14 am

    At least in terms of results, the Christian Guzman signing is working its way up the list. This year he’s hurt and going to miss the whole season, last year he was much worse than that. At $4.2M/year, they’ve overpaid by about $10M and the salary/production ratio is actually negative.

  42. on May 6th, 2006 12:43 pm

    “It was not clear 04 was an absolute anamoly.”

    It’s clearly an anamoly in his yearly stats from an OPS % from the beginning of his career to the year before we signed him. The 1.017 OPS was way above his average of .755 through 2003. That looks and smells like an anamoly.

    “To say it was unforgivably stupid – again, many people, including myself, had good reasons to support it, and that we’ve been wrong so far doesn’t mean they were stupid.”

    I never said anyone was stupid. I think maybe you’re referring to another comment?

    “To say it was the worst of all time – this is what drives me nuts. It’s the kind of lazy, uninformed belief that destroys intelligent conversation, delivered with the confidence of the ignorant. It’s not the worst of all time. There’s just no way. ”

    If he continues to perform as he has, from a money perspective and length of contract perspective, it’s shaping up to be in the running for worst M’s contract of all time. I’d be curious as to who you nominate from a dollars and length perspective, factoring performance compared to expectations?

    Now, he has plenty of time to turn it around, and I think he may, but if he doesn’t, it’s right up there.

  43. John in L.A. on May 6th, 2006 2:11 pm

    92 –

    First off, “worst M’s contract of all time” is not the same thing as “worst free agents siging of all time.”

    Second, people, like myself, who knew that ’04 was not likely to be repeated, but thought it was a mark of improvement as well had good reasons to think that.

    He was started very young, and his numbers were steadily climbing, long before he was approaching his physical peak… when they fell back again before jumping up in ’04, there were some very legitimate explanations that had nothing to do with his ability, i.e. horribly botched surgery.

    Remember that in ’04 every single aspect of his game got better… not just power. It looked like a guy who was finally putting together all the promise he had once had.

    ’04 was a crazy, phenomenally good year for him… but it wasn’t like he was Joey Cora, this was a guy with all-star promise.

  44. dan on May 6th, 2006 5:49 pm

    To date it’s been a bad signing for the M’s and that’s about all that matters. Where it stands historically doesn’t change the fact that $13/m a year is tied up in someone who is providing great defense and no power.

    I know all the reasons you guys (ussm) thought this was the right solution for the M’s. Personally i am not convinced the .830 OPS or whatever pecota thought he would get for 2005 was really worth that much money, even with his glove factored in. But not even hitting that mark makes the contract a pretty huge letdown. At this point i’ll be happily surprised if he hits .275/.830 for a season during his tenure with the M’s.

    I guess the last question is whether or not he is fixable. Over a year in the AL now and every pitcher knows to throw him down and away, and he continues to chase bad pitches. His K rate is up from last year which seems to indicate things aren’t improving, and of course he still isn’t hitting. It’s a sad day when we get excited about him hitting .300 with no power over some stretch of games. WFB can do that.

  45. John D. on May 6th, 2006 6:19 pm

    FIELD MANAGER VS GENERAL MANAGER (Piniella VS Woodward) [See # 26] – The GM does not always act independently from the manager–despite some classic cases (MOE BERG, HANK BOROWY, etc.).
    Frequently the GM merely carries out the manager’s wishes Maybe it was: “I need some right-handed power.” – Kevin Mitchell. Or “I need some relievers.” – Timlin, Spoljaric, Slocumb. (Maybe that’s the way it was.)

  46. mstaples on May 7th, 2006 12:21 pm

    Like Derek said, it’s not “clear” that 2004 was an anomaly. I won’t dig through the stats right now, but Beltre was remarkably consistent the entire year in 2004. I also won’t dig up examples (I realize this cuts into the value I’m providing here), but baseball history contains several examples of players who took steps up in their mid- to late-20s after getting to the Show at a very young age. The bottom line was that if 2004 had, in fact, been for real, Beltre would be a perennial MVP candidate solely on the basis of his offense, and would play stellar D as well. GMs had to weigh the potential for that versus the potential of getting the same skill set that was there from 2000 to 2003. They did so, and that — coupled with the M’s need to make a splash and “get some power” — led to the M’s getting him. That was the market for his services, and the potential upside was huge. As others have alluded to, if his value was solely on the offensive side of the ball, or if he had put up 2004 entirely out of nowhere at age 34 (i.e., Javy Lopez), it would have been nuts to sign him for the money he got. At the time, the balance of risk and reward was, as judged by Dave and everyone else I paid attention to at the time, not only acceptable but the best of the offseason. Hindsight does not change that, and certainly does not take it from a great sign to the worst one ever. It’s not even close.

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