Adrian Beltre, Retrospective
Now that Adrian Beltre is scheduled for surgery tomorrow and is looking at a 6-8 week recovery time, there’s a legitimate chance that his season, and maybe his Mariner career, is over. A two month recovery estimate would theoretically get him back for the month of September, but there are all kinds of potential issues that could arise – the surgery could be more complicated than expected or the rehab could hit a snag, and if his returns gets pushed back even a week or two, the minor league season will be over before he has a chance to go out on a rehab assignment.
Let’s hope Adrian comes back for the final month of the season, but I wouldn’t advise counting on it. Given that he’s a free agent this winter, that his offensive skillset is a bad fit for Safeco Field, that his agent will almost certainly try to guide him to a spot that would be more conducive to putting up offensive numbers to re-establish his value, and that the M’s were pretty impressed with Matt Tuiasosopo in spring training, there are a lot of reasons to think that Beltre and the Mariners might decide to part ways after the season.
So, if this is it, and we’ve seen the last of Adrian Beltre as a Mariner, we need to make one thing perfectly clear – his signing was a complete success and he’s been worth every dime the Mariners paid him. He’s in the conversation for best free agent signing in franchise history. He’s been a terrific asset to the team and a shining light through some really rough seasons.
You’re not going to get that perspective from the mainstream media, however. The first thing that is always brought up when people talk about Beltre is the big contract signed and his 2004 numbers, and how he’s never been able to replicate that performance. Of course, lost in that ignorance is that no one expected Beltre to repeat that performance. His 2004 season was worth 10.0 wins – the only other guys to post a +10 win season since 2002 are named Bonds and Pujols. If people were expecting Beltre to perform at his 2004 levels going forward, he’d have signed for about $200 million more than he actually received.
The fact that Beltre’s 2005-2009 performance never got near his 2004 performance wasn’t a disappointment – that was totally expected. What the M’s were paying Beltre for were an average to above average bat combined with a great glove, and that is exactly what they got. Over at FanGraphs, we have a system for translating on field performance into deserved salary. Here’s Beltre’s Actual Value and Contract Value for each year as a Mariner.
2005: $8.6 million in value, $11.4 million in salary
2006: $17.2 million in value, $12.9 million in salary
2007: $12.4 million in value, $12.9 million in salary
2008: $18.5 million in value, $13.4 million in salary
2009: $5.7 million in value, $13.4 million in salary
Total: $62.4 million in value, $64 million in salary
After a tough adjustment year, Beltre’s been worth his salary and then some for each of the last three years. He was going to easily justify his paycheck again this year until this trip to the disabled list. Even with missing half a season due to an unpredictable injury, his total value is basically dead even with what the Mariners decided he was worth originally.
Beltre has been a rock for the Mariners since he got here. He’s been a consistent +3 to +4 win player, and the kind of guy that every championship club would love to have. If Adrian Beltre’s career with the Mariners is over, it should be remembered as a good one. We hope you come back, Adrian, but if you don’t, thanks for everything. You were awesome.