12/29/10 6:15 PM EST
Halos may have re-taken lead in Beltre sweeps
Reports indicate Angels have inside track to sign star free agent
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, unnamed sources say the Athletics have pulled out of the bidding for the free-agent third baseman, while the Rangers remain in the hunt with some interest.
Agent Scott Boras is seeking at least a five-year, $85 million contract, according to Rosenthal's sources. The Angels reportedly offered five years and $70 million. The Rangers already have one of the game's premier third basemen in Michael Young and would have to trade him or switch him to either designated hitter or first base to make room for Beltre.
Unless a mystery team emerges, as in the case of the Phillies with Cliff Lee, the Angels appear to have the inside track.
Boras is likely attempting to raise interest with a number of teams where Beltre could be a fit -- the World Series champion Giants among them, along with two of Beltre's former clubs, the Dodgers and Mariners. The Blue Jays, Marlins and Orioles also were mentioned as possibilities.
The A's reportedly extended a five-year, $64 million offer for Beltre early in the process and did not withdraw, but now they appear to be focused on other areas.
Oakland already added outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham and designated hitter Hideki Matsui during the winter. Los Angeles acquired left-handed relievers Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Angels owner Arte Moreno said the club made a "significant" offer to Beltre, adding that the offer would not be increased. The Angels withdrew an offer two years ago for Mark Teixeira, another Boras client, but the Halos completely exited negotiations for the first baseman at the time.
"Well, when you have a player of his caliber out there, you have to have an interest if it's realistic within what your budget is, how he would fit into your ballclub and how you would hit him in the lineup, and stuff of that nature," Rangers president Nolan Ryan told Dallas radio station SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket this week.
"So, obviously, with our ballclub, it wouldn't be nearly as clear cut as somebody else, say whether it be the Angels, and the rumor is that Oakland has made him an offer. I would say if you looked at the free-agent market right now, he's probably the premier free agent that's still unsigned."
The 31-year-old Beltre hit .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox last season. He led the American League with 49 doubles and produced 326 total bases -- 60 more than the Angels' leader, Torii Hunter. Beltre also had more homers and RBIs than any of the Angels, and he played his customary brilliant defense.
The Rays' Evan Longoria was the AL's All-Star starter at third base, but Beltre trumped him in almost every major offensive category. Beltre earned his second AL Silver Slugger Award to go with his two Rawlings Gold Gloves. He was ninth in the AL Most Valuable Player balloting.
Beltre finished fourth in the batting race with his .321 clip and was fifth in slugging percentage at .553. His offense was not a product of Fenway Park's inviting dimensions. Fifteen of his 28 homers came on the road, where Beltre has 26 more career homers than in his home parks of Dodger Stadium, Safeco Field and Fenway. His .327 road average was the third highest in the AL.
While hitting with runners in scoring position -- one of the Angels' major deficiencies in 2010 -- Beltre batted .338, which tied for seventh in the league.
According to the 2011 Bill James Handbook, Beltre has saved more runs (55) at third over the past three seasons than any of his positional peers. Only Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, with 60, has saved more among all position players.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.