Beltre to sign with Red Sox, sources say

Needing offense to keep up with the New York Yankees and a third baseman to replace an aging and ailing Mike Lowell(notes), the Boston Red Sox on Monday agreed to the framework of a two-year contract with free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre(notes), according to league sources.

Adrian Beltre is expected to sign a two-year deal with the Red Sox, a contract valued at $10 million for the first season.
(Getty Images)

Beltre’s physical – the last step toward making his two-year contract official – is scheduled for Thursday.

Lowell, a Fenway favorite and a part of World Series teams in Florida (2003) and Boston (2007), was nearly traded to Texas last month, but a physical examination revealed a need for thumb surgery, which Lowell has undergone.

It is unclear what the Red Sox intend to do with Lowell, who has another year – at $12 million – left on his contract. David Ortiz(notes) is the regular DH and Beltre is the best third baseman in the league. Conceivably, they could platoon Lowell and the left-handed hitting Ortiz at DH. More likely, they’ll work again to trade him, perhaps returning to talks with the Rangers. There were rumors Monday the New York Mets could have interest in Lowell as a first baseman.

Meantime, Beltre likely would bat sixth, behind Ortiz, in the Red Sox lineup. While the Red Sox added John Lackey(notes) to their starting rotation, the offense remained a concern, particularly with the Yankees upgrading with Curtis Granderson(notes) in center field, and in spite of recent Marco Scutaro(notes) and Mike Cameron(notes) acquisitions. Jason Bay(notes), who led them in home runs and RBIs last season, recently signed with the Mets.

Details of the contract still are being ironed out, but sources indicate that Beltre is expected to be paid $10 million in 2010. The second year is potentially at the player’s option, depending on reaching a plate-appearance plateau.

Beltre debuted with the Dodgers in 1998 just 2½ months after his 19th birthday and experienced the usual growing pains at the plate while developing into one of the better third basemen in the league. Then in 2004 – his walk year – he batted .334, hit 48 home runs and drove in 121 runs.

He signed a five-year, $64-million contract with the Mariners after that season, and over the life of the deal never batted .280 or hit 30 home runs or drove in 100 in a season. The production slide was attributed to Seattle’s Safeco Field, which swallowed Beltre’s fly balls and turned him back into a pull hitter.

After the collapse of a deal involving the Rangers, Mike Lowell could land with the Mets as their first baseman.
(Getty Images)

He continued to be a solid and spectacular third baseman, however, winning Gold Gloves in 2007 and ’08, when Oakland’s Eric Chavez(notes) was slowed by injuries. Sources indicate Beltre woke up Monday morning measuring offers from both the Red Sox and A’s.

Still, folks in Seattle wondered where his offense had gone. Indeed, generally speaking, Beltre was a better hitter over the past five years away from Safeco than in it, but his power numbers (48 homers in 1,367 at-bats at Safeco, 55 home runs in 1,456 on the road) weren’t that different on the road. If he has become pull oriented, of course, Fenway Park is the place for him.

Beltre had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left shoulder in late June and came back in early August, but 10 days later was on the disabled list because of a contused testicle. He returned in September but struggled down the stretch.

In leaving Seattle, Beltre creates room – on the field and in the budget – for the Mariners’ latest rebuild. Chone Figgins(notes), who agreed to join the Mariners a month ago, takes over at third base. Had Beltre returned, Figgins would have moved to second.

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Jan 4, 2010