Adrian Beltre Will Cash in on Massive 2010 Season But Could Be Too Pricey for Red Sox

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Adrian Beltre Will Cash in on Massive 2010 Season But Could Be Too Pricey for Red Sox Adrian Beltre has been the best third baseman in the major leagues this season.

That's great, but it almost guarantees that either the Red Sox will have to pay him a ton, or he'll be on his way out after 2010.

This past offseason, Beltre signed a one-year, $10 million dollar deal with a player option for $5 million in 2011. By adding more wins to his team, 5.0, than even Evan Longoria (4.5) has thus far, Beltre has made himself worth far more than $5 million.

There are going to be some big bats out there. Prince Fielder is clearly available. Adam Dunn, unless he manages to clear waivers and is subsequently re-signed by the Nationals, is going to be on the market, too. Jayson Werth has made himself millions with his performance this season, and who knows how many zeros are going to be in the deal that Carl Crawford signs, but Beltre is going to get a whole lot richer, too.

This is a familiar story. Remember 2004, when Beltre hit 48 home runs and batted .334 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and was second in MVP voting? And then he went to Seattle for five years, $64 million, and proceeded to become a pretty average player.

For that reason, suitors may not quite trust him, particularly for a long-term deal. 

The others at the top of the list of most productive third basemen have a very diverse array of contract types.

Starting at the top, Alex Rodriguez is earning a laughable $275 million on his 10-year deal until 2017. He's good, but that's about as overpaid as it gets, so it's hard to use him as a fair measuring stick.

Michael Young, a fairer comparison, got five years, $80 million on his extension in 2007. But he was younger than Beltre is, and had been a more consistent performer.

Before David Wright really became David Wright, he got six years, $55 million in 2006. Again, he was much younger and already on his way to becoming the centerpiece in Queens. Ryan Zimmerman, likewise, got $45 million over five years on his extension with the Nats.

The Rays somehow managed to convince Longoria to take a nine-year deal worth a maximum of $44.5 million, a laughably low number when compared to A-Rod's deal.

Longoria isn't the only bargain out there, though.

The unheralded Placido Polanco is an everyday third baseman for the first time in his career, and he's producing in Philly for three years, $18 million. Scott Rolen is getting only $23 million over three years in Cincinnati to excel as well.

The best deal: Troy Glaus, who is earning under $2 million this season in Atlanta (though he now plays primarily at first).

So what is the market for Beltre going to be like? He's probably the third most valuable hitter on the market after Fielder and Crawford, and is by far the best at his position.

The Rolen deal, let alone Glaus', is likely an unfair comparison, because Beltre is only 31. It would be hard, though, to imagine him getting a long-term contract like those given to Zimmerman or Wright, either.

He's probably looking at a two- or three-year deal slightly less rich than what Young (who was a little younger) got, so maybe $40 million over three years.

The comparison is very fair. Both are Gold Glove winners and capable of being offensive stars, but if you had to choose one, you'd probably have to go with Young because of his consistency.

So Beltre gets a little less.

Despite his incredible season in Boston, there has been a dirty secret that shouldn't go unnoticed. While Beltre leads third basemen in wins above replacement (WAR), that stat is not situational. It measures only raw numbers. 

WPA, win percentage added, measures how much a player's actions increase or decrease the team's chances of winning situationally, and in that metric, Beltre has a negative value.

Basically, he is padding his stats when it doesn't matter, and coming up short in important moments. His Clutch Factor, likewise, confirms this trend, as he is minus-5.34 for his career, indicative of a long-term pattern, and minus-1.69 this year, by far the worst on the team.

Still, the Angels need a third baseman. The Dodgers may want to bring him back, though Casey Blake has been good. Atlanta could be an option, and Boston, of course, will be in the running as well.

Somebody is going to pay Beltre a ton of cash, but even with his great numbers, buyers should remember that he is statistically un-clutch and has a history of doing his best work in contract years.

If the Red Sox have a choice between overpaying him and reloading with other pieces, the latter is the better option.

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