Seven years in Los Angeles and five in Seattle certainly give Red Sox fans a large enough sample size to know what to expect out of Beltre in terms of his play on the field. Beltre has been a remarkably consistent player throughout those 12 years, batting a lifetime .270 with an average of 21 home runs and 76 RBIs. Though the third baseman's power numbers dipped last year, he also missed a significant number of games due to an injury he'd surely like to forget.
Because Beltre has spent the past five years in Seattle, there's no reason to think he'll all of a sudden suffer a learning curve playing in the American League. However, his acquisition opens the door for the Red Sox to potentially trade 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell, a fan favorite.
Because Beltre came at a relative discount ($9 million for the 2010 season) and was signed primarily for his Gold Glove-caliber defense, there will be less pressure on him to approach his career-high 48 home runs in 2004. If he can keep his defense on an even keel and successfully plug the hole that developed behind an injured and often-hobbling Lowell on the left side of the infield, he should be fine.
However, fans in Boston will be sure to let Beltre hear it if his defense isn't up to par. See, we've learned to trust general manager Theo Epstein's instincts when it comes to upgraded defense. (Arguably, it was the revamped infield defense after the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 that led to the club's first World Series victory in 86 years.) And should Beltre perform in the same manner as erstwhile Boston shortstops Edgar Renteria or Julio Lugo, fans will not be shy about expressing their displeasure.
Boston is obviously among the top baseball markets in the country and is home to some of the league's most knowledgeable and passionate fans. There are few distractions from the Red Sox during the season, and come playoff time, they're the only game in town. That said, Beltre may face a bit of culture shock playing for a team so deeply rooted in the region's consciousness — especially after five years in Seattle where most of the pressure and adoration fell on his teammate, Ichiro Suzuki.
Ironically, Beltre may face more pressure if he does perform up to expectations, as his success will increase the chances that the club will try to trade Lowell, a move that may not go over well with some of the more sentimental Red Sox fans. However, Beltre's quirky idiosyncrasies might play well with Red Sox Nation, a group known for its acceptance (and appreciation) of Manny Ramirez for eight seasons.
The key for Beltre is making him understand that he doesn't have to knock 50 home runs over the Green Monster to be a success. The name of the game is defense, and knowledgeable Boston fans appreciate a slick-fielding third baseman as much as anyone. If Beltre does his job and holds up his defensive end of the bargain, he should have a productive season in Boston.
NESN.com will be answering one Red Sox question every day through Feb. 23.
Thursday, Feb. 11: How does the offensive approach change without Jason Bay in the lineup?
Saturday, Feb. 13: How satisfying is it to see Boston become a premier free-agent destination?