Re-Signing Adrian Beltre Should Be Red Sox’ Primary Focus Due to Weak Class of Free-Agent Replacements

Re-Signing Adrian Beltre Should Be Red Sox' Primary Focus Due to Weak Class of Free-Agent Replacements The Red Sox already lost a big piece of their offense this winter when catcher Victor Martinez signed with the Detroit Tigers last week. Now that V-Mart is gone, it would be a shame if Boston didn’t re-sign All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre, too.

Unlike the decision to let Martinez walk, which actually wasn’t a bad move at all, allowing Beltre — who had one of the best seasons for a Red Sox third baseman in franchise history — to leave would be devastating. The 31-year-old hit .321 with 28 homers, 102 RBIs and a league-leading 49 doubles last year, all while playing sensational defense at the hot corner.

If Beltre signs elsewhere, the crop of available free agents to take over third base in Boston is very thin.

Miguel Tejada is quite possibly the best available candidate on the market (besides Beltre), but his .312 on-base percentage in 2010 — combined with his 37-year-old body — doesn't exactly raise the eyebrows.

Following Tejada on the lackluster list of viable options are Jorge Cantu, Ty Wigginton and Pedro Feliz. Cantu started hot for the Marlins last year, but finished with just a .696 OPS after being traded to the Rangers on July 29. Wigginton made his first All-Star team for the Orioles last year, but ended up hitting a measly .248 with only eight homers after the break. And Feliz — well let's just say the longtime role player looked like a 35-year-old with back problems in 2010.

The lack of depth at in the market at third base, combined with the interest other teams have shown in Beltre, leads to the speculation that Boston may decide to move Kevin Youkilis to the hot corner, and sign a new first baseman. Youk has already said he's willing to move across the diamond, giving GM Theo Epstein added flexibility this winter.

Unfortunately, the group of potential free-agent first basemen is almost as weak as the market at the hot corner.

Adam Dunn is no slouch, but the slugger will certainly command top dollar this offseason, perhaps as much as or even more than Beltre will make. While Dunn has more power than Beltre, he is a defensive liability, and the fielding problems are compounded when Beltre's loss (and Youkilis' move to third) is factored in.

On the flip side, Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, another available free agent, is an excellent defender with tons of pop from the left side of the plate. But coming off a miserable season in which he hit .196, Pena's struggles would likely continue in the AL East, loaded with southpaws CC Sabathia, David Price, Ricky Romero and possibly Cliff Lee.

Paul Konerko is coming off a sensational 2010 season, but the 34-year-old is looking for a multi-year deal, and that simply does not make sense when a younger and more defensively able Beltre could be had at likely the same price.

As for Adam LaRoche, Derek Lee and Lyle Overbay, the remaining free-agent first baseman even worth mentioning, are all enormous downgrades from Beltre, and all nearing the twilight years of their modest careers.

So while the Red Sox definitely should be concentrating on signing an influential bat like Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford, it would be prudent for Boston to dump a boatload of money at Beltre's feet as well.

Compared to his competition, he's just about the only guy that deserves it.

Should re-signing Adrian Beltre be the Red Sox' primary focus now that Victor Martinez is gone? Share your thoughts below.

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