I'm personally of the opinion that rumors about the Twins being interested in Adrian Beltre are a red herring, meant to distract us and the league while they search for a dominant eighth inning arm. But (and The Voice of Reason will certainly back me up on this) I am absolutely emminently distractable. I am the definition of Short Attention Span Theater.
Which, by the way, nobody mentions, but was fantsatic. Is also launched Jon Stewart's career, and rightly so, because that is not the kind of show that just anyone can pull off. And why does MTV get blasted for no longer having videos, but Comedy Central gets off scott-free for no longer having anything liks SAST?
See what I mean? Absolutely, emminently, distractable.
So let's start with the rumur du jour, er, week. I gotta say, assuming there is at least a little truth to it, this rumor should be encouraging as hell to Twins fans. This sort of rumor was in short supply the last couple years, and it's further evidence that Bill Smith isn't afraid to spend some money and take some risks. Terry Ryan got a bum rap in that regard for the most part, but Smith has made some bold and creative moves. Plus, it's comforting to see that the extra money that the team didn't spend on free agents might be available for a mid-season pickup, and isn't sunk into paying overruns at the new ballpark.
Beltre hasn't been the superstar the Mariners expected when they threw $64 million at him in 2005. That probably shouldn't be a surprise, because prior to 2004, Beltre was the poster boy for the young, incredibly talented but dissappointing athelete. Then came 2004, Beltre's contract year, in which he suddenly showed some plate discipline and slugged .629 (blink. blink.), earning him a second place finish in the National League MVP voting. He hasn't shown that discipline since. Nor has he slugged over .500.
You might think that the Mariners would be looking to jettison a contract like that, just like they did with Richie Sexson. But salaries have rocketed upwards since 2004, so that $12 million a year he makes per year is easier to justify, especially with third base being a thin position. Add in his defense (he won a gold glove last year), his age (he's only 29 years old), and the fact that 2009 would also be a contract year like 2004 was, and he starts to make more sense.
Of course, the $12 million question is what you give up for him. La Velle E Neal suggested that the price might be similar to what the Athletics recently received for Joe Blanton, which he interprets as being equivalent to one of the Twins young starters and some other prospects.
I'm not sure how he draws that comparison. Two of the players are prospects only in a nominal sense. Josh Outman is a Double-A pitcher who has already been switched to the bullpen. And Matt Spencer is an outfielder in High A ball whose career trajectory is aimed towards being a decent left-handed fourth outfielder for someone's bench.
And the "prize" player the Athletics received? Second baseman Adrian Cardnenas is certainly a prospect, but he is only in High-A ball. Last year he ranked #76 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list with a note that his ETA to the majors was 2010. For comparison purposes, Deolis Guerrara, the 18-year-old pitcher the Twins received as the fourth player in the Johan Santana trade, was listed as #35 on the same list with the same ETA.
I'm pretty sure that if Bill Smith can have Beltre for Guerrera and a couple of the Twins nominal prospects, that deal would already be done.
You can bet that the package the Twins offered Seattle included Brian Buscher, because there is no longer room on this team for Buscher if the trade is made. Beltre isn't a platoon player, and his contract goes through 2010, by which time Buscher is almost 29 years old, which is, well, even older than Brian Buscher is now, which is saying something.
The Mariners probably don't have much interest in Buscher. Buscher might be attractive to some teams, but the Mariners seem to be pushing Matt Tuiasosopo fairly quickly. He's just 22 years old and has graduated to AAA this year, and his .256 batting average disguises that he does some good things in terms of getting on base and having a little power.
One the one hand, that looks to me like someone they might like to season a bit before throwing onto the major league grill. They could afford that luxury with soemone like Buscher on the roster, especially because Buscher is left-handed and could allow Tuiasosopo some platoon time at the beginning of his major league career. Of course, the same could be said for holding onto Beltre for another year. Or for signing a low-end free agent to provide an insurance policy at third base for 2009. Now that Bill Bavasi is gone, I suspect they have thought of those options.
So the Twins ideal package probably isn't something the Mariners are interested in. But I'd be shocked if the Twins didn't have a combination of minor leaguers that could entice the Mariners to save themselves the $16 million that Beltre is owed for the remainder of his contract. How far the Twins are willing to go is likely dependent on their other options, and there are some, and a few might even be a better fit than Beltre.
Which, strangely enough, is what this entry was supposed to be about. Instead, it's been about Beltre and the Athletics trade. See what I mean about distractable?
(But that means that we get to research some of the other options later this week. Yeay. See you then.)