The interesting thing about the whole Adrian Beltre sweepstakes is that, a year after finishing up a five-year contract with Seattle, his strongest suitors this offseason were the A's, Angels, and Rangers. Clearly, those teams liked what they saw from him as a Mariner, and given the localized interest, it's easy to see how his signing with Texas could have implications for everyone. In this post, I will attempt to run down what the Beltre acquisition means for each team in the division.
For the Rangers, Beltre obviously provides a boost both at the plate and in the field, cementing their status as the AL West favorite. While he's unlikely to have another 2010, we know he's a better hitter than he's thought to be, and the defensive improvement from Michael Young to Beltre at third is somewhat staggering. He does not put the team "over the top", just as no player can ever put any team over the top, and Beltre is likely only an improvement of a few wins in the short-term. But those few wins should help them pull away from the pack - especially given that those few wins almost went to Anaheim.
One concern is that, slowly but surely, the young players on the Rangers will start to get expensive just as Beltre begins to age. But Young's contract is up in three years, there's currently no other big money on the books, and the team has that upcoming TV contract that will allow them to purchase Europe. Beltre's no lock to stay productive through the length of his contract, but I doubt he'll end up being a major problem.
For the A's, Beltre hurts, in no small part because they were the first team to make a strong offer and Beltre pretty much ignored them. Had the A's been able to sign Beltre, they might've pulled just about even with the Rangers. Instead, the gap between the two has only widened, and the challenge ahead has become tougher. It would be irresponsible to suggest that the A's are screwed, since they're forever committed to a long-term plan that looks beyond the current season, but this is a team whose 2011 playoff odds have been dealt a blow. That's a bit rough for a team whose three big offseason acquisitions are all set to become free agents next November.
Given that Beltre was going to sign with either Texas or Anaheim, Oakland's odds were going to be hurt anyway. But I think their odds are hurt more by his signing with the favorite.
For the Angels...the Angels' offseason is probably worth several articles of its own. The Angels have famously whiffed on all of their targets - Beltre, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee, and so on - and they've come away holding just a pair of free agent relievers. It's crazy to me that they missed on Beltre. That seemed like a foregone conclusion, given the team's need, and the team's resources, and the fact that Beltre owns a home in southern California.
But in the Angels' defense, I'll say this - even if unintentional, the team has avoided having to guarantee seven years to Crawford, and six years to Beltre, and seven years to Werth, and so on. The money flowing this offseason has been crazy, and as empty as it feels to come away with pretty much nothing, at the same time the Angels haven't made any major, risky commitments. That's not such a bad thing. None of these guys were going to make the Angels strong title contenders on their own, and none of these guys are likely to improve in the future. Tony Reagins might've wanted to hand out a big contract, but he didn't, and there's upside in that.
In the short-term, seeing Beltre go to the Rangers obviously hurts the Angels' standing in 2011. They look like a third-place team, and the Rangers are quite a bit better. The Angels could still make the playoffs - remember that they'll have Kendry Morales back, and a full year of Dan Haren - but their odds are fairly low, and they'll probably again struggle to score runs on a consistent basis.
And finally, there are the Mariners - the team least affected by the signing. What this means is that their already slim hopes of making the postseason in 2011 and 2012 have been further reduced, as the best team in the division has made itself better. But I think a lot of people have been looking ahead to 2013 or so as the year by which the Mariners should have built a strong contender, and by then Beltre will be 34 years old. So, on paper, this isn't a big deal.
It's more of a psychological issue for those of us who fell in love with Beltre as a Mariner, but given that he spent all last season with the Red Sox, and given that we were preparing for him to end up with the Angels, things could be worse. I expect Beltre to do big things with Texas. I expect him to do big things against the Mariners, and I expect him to be a fan favorite. He's a hard guy not to love, which, in turn, makes his playing for a rival more painful. But if I can stomach seeing a guy high-five Kevin Youkilis, I can stomach seeing a guy high-five Ian Kinsler. Ultimately, as long as we still have Felix, I think I'll get by.
Kudos to Texas for pulling off the latest unexpected major move in a winter chock-full of them.