Beltre weighs options while Angels wait
What's left is third baseman Adrian Beltre(notes), the last impact bat and glove in a winter that held only a few of them to begin with.
And what's left is a market that had momentarily wrung itself out – emotionally and financially – over Carl Crawford(notes), Jayson Werth(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes).
Based on 2010, when he had more home runs, drove in more runs and hit for a higher average than Crawford or Werth and batted .338 with runners in scoring position, Beltre didn't necessarily have to be the last of them standing, but he is.
His home-road splits say he was a better hitter away from Fenway Park than in it, which could settle the hearts of general managers who would rather not sign Red Sox Beltre and get Mariners Beltre. And his glove has never gone away.
The market should be clear on Beltre, only 31 years old yet a 13-year veteran closing in on 2,000 hits, but it remains somewhat murky. He is believed to be seeking a five-year, $80 million deal.
Now that they've composed themselves since the Crawford debacle, the Los Angeles Angels are in the hunt. They have the greatest need, should be feeling the most pressure to sign someone for the middle of their order and their defense, and have the money. The club has discussed with Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, the basic framework of a contract, according to sources, but not much more than that.
Perhaps owner Arte Moreno still feels the pain of two years ago, when he hadn't the patience for extended Mark Teixeira(notes) negotiations that ran through Boras, but it appears the Angels are letting Beltre come to them. Maybe they're banking on the fact Beltre keeps a home in the Los Angeles area – though many afternoons Arcadia is one very long traffic jam from Anaheim – and would love to return. The strategy just might work, unless it doesn't, and then a disappointing offseason will become worse.
The action that we know of on Beltre has been limited to a five-year, $64-million offer from the Oakland Athletics, who pulled that back and tidied up their offense with David DeJesus(notes), Hideki Matsui(notes) and Josh Willingham(notes). While it is likely the A's still have that money and could still be talked into Beltre, they clearly are not Beltre's first choice. Or second. Or third.
The Baltimore Orioles seemed a reasonable fit – Adam Jones(notes) tweeted Beltre, "Would look great in that black and orange" – then traded for Mark Reynolds(notes). Andy MacPhail killed speculation that Reynolds would move to first base to clear room for Beltre, saying the O's were done taking on third basemen, and confirmed it by sneaking up on a deal with Adam LaRoche(notes).
The Boston Red Sox, of course, are quite crowded on the corners, given the Adrian Gonzalez(notes) and Crawford acquisitions, so have moved on. The Chicago White Sox appear to have spent themselves out on Adam Dunn(notes), Paul Konerko(notes) and A.J. Pierzynski(notes). Other teams that could use Beltre – Colorado, Arizona and Florida – aren't spendy like that. The Toronto Blue Jays didn't appear interested, and then signed Edwin Encarnacion(notes).
So, beyond the Angels and the A's, here's what – in our opinion – still could make sense:
• Texas Rangers. Reports had them moving third baseman Michael Young(notes) – to Colorado, to first base, to DH – in order for them to make a play on Beltre, particularly now that the Cliff Lee experience is over. Trading Young won't be easy, however. He has three years and $48 million left on his contract. A partial no-trade provision in the contract provides he can be dealt to only eight teams, among them the Angels, Dodgers, Cardinals and Rockies. Lastly, Young loves Dallas and won't want to leave. Still, the Rangers are worth the thought, because they think big, even with all these moving parts.
• San Francisco Giants. Yes, we know: Pablo Sandoval(notes). He's working out, getting trim, reversing all the stuff that made him irrelevant last season. It's a terrible time to trade him, given what his value must be, and the Giants carry themselves like they're running out of money. But they still need offense. Maybe Adam Jones had it right, just not the orange and black he was thinking about.
• St. Louis Cardinals. They're waiting on David Freese(notes), a good player who is expected to recover from ankle surgery in time for spring training and be ready to play third base. They might also be looking at the last season of Albert Pujols(notes), after which they could move Freese to first and have four more years of Beltre. It's just a thought.
• Detroit Tigers. Granted, they're running out of places to move Brandon Inge(notes) and they've already spent on Victor Martinez(notes), Joaquin Benoit(notes), Magglio Ordonez(notes) and Jhonny Peralta(notes). But, the possibility is there.
At the end of the day, the Angels remain the club that lines up closest with Beltre, who found happiness and production in the great baseball climate that is Boston. Anaheim isn't Boston, exactly, but it's not Seattle either.