12/09/10 10:00 AM EST
Beltre better than Crawford for Angels
Third baseman would fill need and allow team to address bullpen
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
From the very start of this offseason and up until Wednesday night's shocking development, Carl Crawford was your guy. Torii Hunter was a relentless recruit, Crawford's interest was piqued, and by Wednesday afternoon, many essentially considered this match a foregone conclusion. Then, the Red Sox swooped in and snatched the speedy left fielder right from under you with a landmark seven-year, $142 million contract.
But fear not -- there is a lot to like about your very probable consolation prize.
No, Adrian Beltre isn't quite as dynamic as Crawford, but he's a supreme player at a position of need. If the Angels sign him -- which seems like a good bet, considering Beltre's seemingly short list of suitors and the obvious fit -- the Angels may end up being a better all-around ballclub than they would have been with Crawford.
It may be hard to wrap your head around that just hours after having your heart ripped out, but think about it: Beltre not only would provide Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base and give the Angels the offensive spark they so desperately seek, he would allow general manager Tony Reagins to address other needs (and when you're a team that finished third in a four-team division and two games below .500, there's more than one).
Angels third basemen put up only a .573 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last season, which ranked dead last in the American League. Beltre can fix that, and his price tag would give Los Angeles some freedom to seek help for its bullpen -- one that ranked in the middle of the pack in league ERA and save percentage.
Ideally, the Angels would love an upgrade over 2010 closer Fernando Rodney, who put up a 4.24 ERA and blew a third of his 21 save chances. Beltre would make the addition of Rafael Soriano seem feasible, and if not him, then maybe Bobby Jenks, or any one or more arms that would give the Angels' relief corps a much-needed boost.
Without counting their eight arbitration-eligible players -- two of whom, Kendry Morales and Jered Weaver, will get sizeable raises -- and after considering the $11 million they're still on the hook for on Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels currently sit at roughly $100 million in committed salaries.
Reagins couldn't afford to pay Crawford -- now making just over $20 million annually -- and legitimately address his bullpen. With Beltre he can, because even though he's represented by Scott Boras, the highest contract linked to him has been five years for $85 million, or $17 million annually -- and that doesn't seem likely after his list of potential suitors dwindled recently.
It hasn't even been a month since Boras emphatically claimed he has "never had so much interest in one player" than he had for Beltre.
But it sure seems like a lot longer than that, doesn't it?
Boras said that to MLB Network Radio on Nov. 11, but while he addressed reporters during the final full day of the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, Beltre's market appeared rather mysterious and not quite as robust as the super-agent articulated not long ago.
But of course -- as is his job -- Boras didn't leave Lake Buena Vista, Fla., without describing the opposite.
"That's a very busy market for Adrian," he said on Wednesday afternoon. "We're in the middle of a lot of negotiations with a lot of teams for him, and they're ongoing."
It was hard to imagine that being the case, though.
Not when considering Beltre's most recent home -- Boston -- no longer require his services after getting Adrian Gonzalez in a move that will shift Kevin Youkilis to third base.
Or when the team that made an initial lucrative offer -- Oakland -- reportedly rescinded its five-year proposal worth $64 million because GM Billy Beane's bunch apparently grew tired of waiting for an answer.
Or when noting that several other teams that had a need at the hot corner heading into the offseason -- namely, the Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Orioles -- have already addressed them in a cheaper manner.
But the Red Sox and Crawford indirectly gave Beltre a gift on Wednesday night, and Angels fans shouldn't be frowning about it.
It's a perfect fit. The Angels need Beltre, and Beltre needs the Angels.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.