Many pundits (myself included) applauded Boston’s contract with Adrian Beltre this past off-season. The one-year deal (with a player option) teetered on the balance of risk minimization and upside maximization perfectly. If Beltre performed well in 2010, he would appear underpaid. On the flip side, if Beltre had the worst season of his career he wouldn’t be paid too much in excess and given the cheap rate of his 2011 option, he would have the chance to even out any losses endured.
Even the added incentives are a stroke of well-placed foresight; Beltre’s 2011 option increases to $10 million with 640 plate appearances this season. Beltre has recorded at least 640 plate appearances three times in his career. His average (not per 162 games, per season) plate appearance total as a Mariner was 612. Even with the assumed bump thanks to an improved run environment, Beltre would only reach that total by staying healthy and performing well. And you know what, if he did that, and if that $10 million option were exercised as a result, he’d probably still be underpaid.
David Golebiewski covered Beltre under a more analytical tone a few weeks ago. I’ll defer in that aspet to him while quoting one of the more impressive feats offered:
In Boston, Beltre is enjoying his best season since that double-digit WAR total back in ’04. After a four-for-four night against the Rays, he’s batting .349/.387/.561 in 310 trips to the plate, with a .410 wOBA that ranks ninth among qualified major league hitters. He’s flashing the leather again, too, with +12.9 UZR/150. Beltre has already compiled 3.8 WAR this season, trailing only Justin Morneau, Robinson Cano and Carl Crawford among position players. With $15.1 million in Value Dollars, he has already more than justified Boston’s investment.
Perhaps the most fitting moment of the season occurred when Beltre hit a home run off Ben Sheets last night. You see, the Athletics lusted after the third baseman too. Some reports even had Oakland offering more financial security than Boston. Yet, Beltre spurned the added fortune for Boston. In the aftermath, Oakland gave that money to Sheets. That home run won’t make Ken Burns next baseball documentary or anything; for Oakland it’s just proof that the ways of the universe are sometimes utterly cruel.
And for Beltre it’s proof that sometimes betting on yourself is a worthwhile venture.