Sunday, October 12, 2008

Starting Point

Friday I was treated to a nice writeup of Adrian Beltre, courtesy of Josh's Thoughts. It's well done, nicely summarizing the rewards and issues surrounding acquiring Beltre.

It's been a hot topic lately, and I spoke about it with several smart guys on Seth's podcast last last week. Twins fans interest seems to be high, but is tempered as soon as you begin to throw out names. Everyone loves the idea of getting him for prospects. But bring up on of the young members of the pitching staff, or one of the glut of young outfielders, and opinions become more guarded in a hurry.

The problem is that we're not going to get Beltre for Boof Bonser and Anthony Swarzak. A lot has been made about the Mariners being a struggling franchise with a bloated payroll. But before we start thinking that the Mariners are going to give away Beltre for some magic beans, we should look at some other factors as well:

1. The Third Baseman market is Olson Twin thin. You could make a case that the 3rd best free agent third baseman this year is going to be Mike Lamb. When the cream of the crop is Casey Blake, who has mostly been a super-utility guy for his whole career, then the market is razor thin.

The demand for Beltre is going to be far, far greater than the supply of Adrian Beltre. What is a "fair" trade isn't really relevant. What will be relevant is what the market will bear, and the market is going to bear a lot more than 2-3 B level prospects.

2. The Mariners dont NEED to move Beltre's salary off the books. Yeah, their payroll is huge, but there isn't lot of evidence that it's a stretch for the Mariners:

2008: $117,666,482
2007: $106,460,833
2006: $ 87,959,833
2005: $ 87,754,334
2004: $ 81,515,834

(Thanks to the indispensable Cott's Baseball Contracts)

There just isn't any evidence that the Mariners care one whit about cutting payroll, and there is plenty to indicate otherwise. For instance, when a team flat out rejects an offer to take unload the $10 M contract of Jarrod Washburn (which the Mariners did this year), I think we can safely assume there isn't any urgency for them to slash payroll.

That high payroll level also means that they don't to worry about "fill-in" players. Next year will likely be the last year they'll need to pay Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Batista, Jarrod Washburn and possible Erik Bedard. All told, that'll free over $50 million in payroll. They'll be able to sign all the lower-end free agents they would ever want.

With all those holes and all that money, they Mariners are going to be shopping for players with some Big League chops, or at least with some tremendous upside. The Twins don'thave the latter in the high level of their minors. But they do have plenty of candidates to plug some of those rotation holes, and a couple of guys who could replace Adam Jones, who the Mariners traded away last offseason, in center field.

In short, we need to start thinking of the Mariners in much the same was we think about the Mets. They have money, and they have expectation, and the pressure will be to compete sooner rather than later. Discussing them trading Beltre for a collection of minor leaguers is likely a fantasy. One of the Twins young regulars is going to be the starting point.


Twins Fan c. 1981 said...

I think the point I didn't make - re-listening to the podcast - was that third base wasn't the position that cost the Twins the spot in the playoffs in 2008 wasn't 3b or was the bullpen. I don't see 3b or ss as the number one priority to address this over season. I would like to have Beltre under the right certain circumstances but the concern should be the bullpen...

walter hanson said...

I think Twins Fan C that isn't the worry you think it is.

Neshek should be back.

Not to mention when Gardy handed the eighth inning out of desperation to Morjales he did great.

We have two very reliable candidates to be eighth set up men.

Not to mention remember what Baltimore did a couple of years ago. They wend and committed twelve million plus in long term contracts to three setup pitchers that I don't think are pitching any longer for them.

Not to mention the problem you site was common:

* the Yankees didn't have an eighth inning pitcher to get to Rivera.

* Boston made the playoffs, but it was always interesting in the seventh and eighth while they were trying to get to Pop!

A 20 plus homer hitter in a lineup that has two hitters who might be expected to hit 20 next year isn't needed? Get real. Furthermore Beltre batting fith, Kubel sixth, Young seventh breaks up the streak of lefties in the lineup.

Considering we have five OF's to get ab's for I will be happy to throw in Young or Cuddyer to make a deal along with Perkins and Blackburn. It's more than what people think should be traded for, but we can afford that group I just cited.

Do I need to go on?

Walter Hanson

TT said...

The Twins would certainly be better next year with Beltre at third and batting fifth in the order. He is a better defender than Buscher/Harris and will produce 5-10 more home runs.

But they will be a lot worse team if they have to sign a veteran free agent for the 5th spot in the rotation. That seems very likely if they trade away one of their young starters. They really don't have any pitchers ready to step up. In fact, keeping the five guys they have in the rotation healthy next year may be the key to their success. Its probably not going to be pretty if Bonser and Humber get a lot of starts.

Josh's Thoughts said...

Nice post, John. And thanks for the link.

David Wintheiser said...

That people are buzzing about possibly acquiring Adrian Beltre makes me cringe for the state of intelligent baseball analysis.

Yes, the guy had a great 2004. But how many more seasons have to go by before people realize that was a fluke year? The guy is a career .271 hitter with a career OPS+ of 107; this includes the year he hit .334 with an OPS+ of 163.

Is it time for a Player A/Player B?

A - .271/.327/.459 - .956 FP/2.82 RF9
B - .275/.367/.458 - .966 FP/2.70 RF9

If you can do math, you can see that Player A is Beltre from the numbers given above.

Player B is Corey Koskie.

That's not to say that Corey Koskie didn't help the Twins win some division titles; he did. But Adrian Beltre is not a poor man's Alex Rodriguez; he's a rich man's Corey Koskie -- he's not as good a hitter as Koskie was, and though on average he gets to an extra ball every nine games (a .11 edge in range factor per nine innings translates to .99 extra plays over 81 innings), he tends to throw that extra ball away and then some (a .01 margin of fielding percentage means one extra error for every 100 chances, and based on his RF9, Beltre gets over 200 chances per 81 innings), so you could argue he's not even as good a defender as Koskie.

How badly do you want to pay $10 million a year for a healthier, slightly less impressive version of Corey Koskie?

vodkatang said...

So, just because he's not as good as he was in 2005, we shouldn't want him? That makes absolutely no sense. It depends on what we give for him, but the money shouldn't be an issue. And I'd love to have someone who approaches what Koskie used to do, offensively and defensively.

Beyond the Box Score listed him as one of the eight most underrated superstars in the game (along with Joe Mauer, Curtis Granderson, and Grady Sizemore among others):

"Anyone who still thinks the Mariners' 5 year, $64MM deal for Beltre was a mistake deserves a complimentary colonoscopy. He's an above-average hitter and an exceptional third baseman (+13 runs per season over the past two). At three wins on offense and one and a half on defense, Beltre's All-Star caliber performances are worth $18MM on today's free agent market . His power numbers would be a lot more impressive outside of Safeco, too."

thrylos98 said...

I am not sure that Belte is the best option at 3B for the Twins, but the Mariner's owner has been on record several times after the season ended indicating that the new GM will have a smaller budget to work with... this smells like rebuilding to me and makes sense for them. I do not think that they will have a Marlins-like fire sale when the Twins got Castillo for nothing, but players will be made available...