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Why Adrian Beltre Makes Little Sense

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This post makes me sad. I'm so sorry, Red.

I love Adrian Beltre. I would love to continue being able to watch him in a Mariners uniform. But like Jeff's two posts on Felix earlier in the offseason, this one is going to take the rational approach.

Here is our situation as it stands now:
1B - Hannahan/Carp - 1 WAR, $400K
2B - Lopez - 2 WAR, $2.5M
SS - Wilson - 2 WAR, $5M
3B - Figgins - 3 WAR, $9M
Total - 8 WAR, 17M

Re-signing Adrian Beltre would mean that he reclaims his third base position and almost assuredly moves Chone Figgins to second base now that left field is filled with some rotation of four players (Michael Saunders, Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans, Bill Hall). Figgins is likely to be the same value at third or second, 3-3.5 WAR since the positional adjustments are the same and Figgins has familiarity at both positions. Figgins at second base means Jose Lopez is displaced either to first base or another team.

I covered what Jose Lopez moving to first base would be like (see? The dominoes are all falling into place now) earlier and concluded that he would not be significantly better than either of our already present options (Jack Hannahan, Mike Carp). In other words, whether Hannahan, Carp or Lopez, we probably only have about 1 WAR projected out of first base for now. Since moving Lopez results in no possible upgrade at first base, Adrian Beltre essentially replaces Lopez's production and Mike Carp's cost in the infield. That shuffling of the infield deck chairs represents a mere one win upgrade.

Signing Beltre, Moving Lopez to 1B
1B - Lopez - 1 WAR, $2.5M
2B - Figgins - 3 WAR, $9M
SS - Wilson - 2 WAR, $5M
3B - Beltre - 3 WAR, $X
Total - 9 WAR, 16.5M + X

In this illustration, you should clearly see the problem. We gained a win, sure, but because the only player bumped was one making the league minimum, the cost of that single win would be the entirety of Beltre's salary over that amount, a far too rich amount.

Clearly then, acquiring Beltre means that Jose Lopez needs to go. There are still problems with this. Even in the case where you just traded Lopez for something non-infield related, you still net just one win, however your marginal cost for that one win would be reduced to Beltre salary over Lopez's. The issue is how cheap Jose Lopez is. At just $2.5 million in cost, Adrian Beltre's additional win over Lopez would mean that we could offer Beltre about $7 million for what he would supply the team in marginal production under this scenario. I have a hard time believing Adrian Beltre is signing here for $7 million, much less that Jack Zdurencik is interested in paying full market price for wins.

Moving further into complicated land, we could suppose that instead of trading Lopez for non-entity's, Jack Z could turn him into a league average 1B (given that Lopez is a league average 2B, I'm not going to go any higher). In that case, the infield would then look like:

Signing Beltre, Trading Lopez For League Average 1B
1B - Trade Target- 2 WAR, $Y
2B - Figgins - 3 WAR, $9M
SS - Wilson - 2 WAR, $5M
3B - Beltre - 3 WAR, $X
Total - 10 WAR, 14M + X + Y

Now we have a two win upgrade over our current arrangement. We also now have two unknown salaries. Sticking with the best case scenario (see how flimsy this hope is getting?), and assuming the league average 1B we trade for is a 0-3 year player making the league minimum, we are back to Beltre's cost replacing Lopez's cost, but with the benefit of gaining us two wins instead of one. Two wins at market value is about $8-9 million which means the Mariners could offer Beltre $10-11 million a year and the deal would make sense from a marginal production point of view. As a quick side note, it's actually a little less than this because re-signing Beltre means we lose out on a Type B compensation pick, worth a million or so.

Two problems with that though. First, would Beltre accept that? He may want more. Secondly, and more damning is that while that offer would be justified in a vacuum, the Mariners are up against their budget. They cannot afford to pay fair market price for wins. Even with the creative additions of Figgins, Lee and Bradley all coming in well below market rates (discussed in future post), the team is still needing to address some holes and paying the market rate isn't going to do it.

In an ideal world, Lopez would fetch a good return after his high average, clutchy, 25-homerun, 40-double 2009 season. A return good enough to allow the Mariners to then pay Beltre what he wants. That's not likely to happen however. And even if it did, Beltre would have to want to come back and be willing to sign at below his fair market value. Remember, for Beltre, a 3 WAR player, he's worth about $12-14 million a year. On top of that, Jack Zduriencik would have to want to sign Beltre to such a deal and basically punt the rest of free agency.

I think we all figured that Beltre was gone as soon as the 2009 season ended. The reports that surfaced at the Winter Meetings about the Mariners being interested in bringing Beltre back probably renewed that hope for some people, but as things stand now, it's not an avenue that offers much sense to the Mariners at this time.