This following emminates from the Captain Obvious file, but it needs to be written. Are you ready? Here it goes: if the Angels don't sign Adrian Beltre, they are screwed... royally.
Like him or not, Beltre is the only legit major upgrade left on the market.
Even after Tony Reagins' free agent blitz on lefty relievers, it turns out the Halos still have a few major holes to fill: a reliable leadoff hitter, another power bat in the middle of the order, a left fielder with at least above average range and a solution to the giant sinkhole at third base. Technically they have another need, but I am not exactly going to hold my breath for someone to take Scott Kazmir's contract off the Angels' hands. The only problem is that pretty much all of the really desirable players who could fill one or more of those needs is already off the market. Except for slugging third baseman Adrian Beltre.
I will be the first to admit that forking over a big contract to Adrian Beltre scares me to death. Call me crazy, but I just am not in love with the idea of giving big money on a long-term deal to a guy whose best two season have come in contract years. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Seriously, it is like everyone forgot that Beltre was considered a mild bust when he left the Dodgers after an MVP-caliber season to sign with the Mariners for 5 years and $64 million. He wasn't grossly overpaid, but he certainly didn't live up to the lofty expectations that many had for him after that breakout 2004 campaign. And now Beltre is in position to reenact the same scenario all over again now that he is coming off a very impressive season with the Red Sox and there is a almost 100% certainty that he is going to be making more annually with his next contract than he did with that not-so-great Seattle deal. So, even though it seems like whoever gives him that contract stands a good chance of regretting it, I really don't think the Angels have any other choice but to step up to the plate and overpay him.
There is no way Beltre will match his stellar 2010 numbers, but even when he comes back down to earth, he is still a very nice player, just not one that is going to single-handedly change the fortunes of a franchise. The problem with Adrian is that he has been fairly erratic in his offense performances over the last few years. At a bare minimum, in Beltre the Halos would be getting a guy with good, but not great, power and a passable average to bat sixth in the order, filling at least one need for the Angels. At best, he is a run-producing slugger that could put up All-Star numbers and make the heart of the Angel lineup pretty scary. Without the financial motivation egging him on, I suspect that the best case scenario is pretty unlikely. What I expect is him to perform somewhere in the middle and turn in numbers a la the 2009 version of Juan Rivera, complete with pull happy tendencies and plethoras of ill-timed GIDPs to his credit. Now I ask you, would you pay 2009 Juan Rivera $14 million? No neither would I, not even if he played a stellar defensive third base, which Beltre does.
Well, too bad for me and my opinion though, because the Angels have no other options left at their disposal that don't involve injecting horse steroids into Alberto Callaspo every three hours. Perusing the list of available free agent third basemen, all I see is a list of guys who either can kind of hit but can't field or can field but can barely hit. Honestly, the next best alternative to Beltre is probably Felipe Lopez, a utility infielder with very little power and I think we can all agree the Angels have enough of those already.
But who says we have to look at third basemen only? Maybe there are other position players who can fill multiple needs at once?
Not so much.
When it comes to finding middle of the order types, there are plenty of older options like Vlad Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. All four of those players have eerily similar profiles in that they have the tantalizing hope that they can recapture their youth and return to being big time sluggers, but all four are far more likely to continue aging in not so graceful fashion. The killer though is that none of them have any business playing the field on a regular basis, meaning Bobby Abreu would be forced into left field on a full-time basis, and nobody wants that.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a grab bag of solid left fielders for the Angels to pick from, but not one of them is a good bet to be either a productive run producer or tablesetter. Lastings MIlledge, Ryan Church, Austin Kearns, Fred Lewis, Reed Johnson. Honestly, who could really tell the difference? Signing one of them is nothing more than a crapshoot, hoping that the guy the Halos pick ends up capturing a little magic and becoming something more than a league average player. Taking a flier on any of those players would be fine, but only as a last resort, not as the primary option for beefing up the Angel offense, which it would be at this point.
That is why the Angels need Beltre. While he may not be a game-changing impact bat, he is really the only offensive player on the market who is a guarantee to upgrade the Angel lineup. That is the undeniable truth, even if I don't like it. The ugly truth though is that if the Halos don't get him, they are going to be forced into signing high-risk players or into a trade market where they are going to be held for ransom since every team knows just how desperate they are.
So, congrats Adrian Beltre, you are now far and away the most important free agent in the Halosphere by default. Now it is up to Tony Reagins to not screw it up.