Beltre’s Market Value

This winter, we’re going to see a few guys become very, very rich. Cliff Lee is going to become one of the highest paid pitchers in the game; Carl Crawford will likely join the $100 million contract club, while Jayson Werth and Adam Dunn will get paid for their power. But, to me, the most interesting free agent of all is Adrian Beltre.

He’s going to be a fascinating case. He’s essentially a lock to opt-out of the player option he has for 2011 and go back on the market, given how well he has played for the Red Sox this year. Two more home runs last night pushed him up to the +5.0 WAR level for the season, and he’s legitimately in the discussion for American League MVP.

And, while the offense has been better than anyone expected, Beltre’s been one of the game’s best third baseman for quite some time. He’s now accumulated +48.6 WAR in 7,300 career plate appearances, or an average of +4 wins per season. We’re looking at over a decade of excellence, but it comes with inconsistencies.

Outside of 2004 and 2010, Beltre’s bat has been more average than exceptional. He has now had two monstrous offensive seasons, but those are the exception rather than the rule. Whoever signs Beltre will have to expect something closer to a .350 wOBA rather than the .403 he’s at currently. Of course, he also brings excellent defense to the table, and he’s one of the most durable players around, so you get value beyond simply what he does at the plate.

So, what’s fair market value for a 32-year-old with a true talent level of about a +4 win player? In this market, where a lot of teams are still scared to add long term payroll, probably something like 3 years, $45 million. But, with so many other quality player on the market this winter and limited teams with spending power, I have a feeling he’ll get less than that – maybe something like 3/36 instead.

I’m curious, though – what would YOU pay Adrian Beltre this winter? Do you see this as just another fluke year, and he’ll regress back to something closer to what he was in Seattle, or have you seen enough to believe that he’s a different player outside of Safeco Field?

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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After watching Adrian in Safeco over the years, I’m more prone to believe him to be a different player inside a hitter’s park. 3/45 sounds realistic.