Reports are spreading that the Oakland Athletics have already offered free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre a five-year deal worth upwards of $64M and that his agent, Scott Boras, is using Torii Hunter’s five-year, $90M deal as a comparable for what Beltre should expect.
It has already been reported that the Red Sox would cap their offer to Beltre to four-years and $52M.
Say goodbye to your 2010 all-star third baseman.
This is something Fire Brand expected to happen from the get-go this offseason. Beltre had such a great year and is so far and away the best available third baseman this winter that he is going to get a mega contract, one likely beyond anything the Sox were willing to offer. At this point, Sox fans should be thinking about other alternatives.
Should the Sox move Kevin Youkilis back to third base, there would still some interesting first base options out there. Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche, Lance Berkman and Derrek Lee are all available and some (Berkman, Lee) may come on the cheap. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to signing these free agents. Konerko has been linked to Arizona, Baltimore and his former club, the White Sox. The Nationals are said to have serious interest in Carlos Pena, who combines power and plus defense. Quite frankly the other names on the list are a bit less appealing. If all else fails, the Sox may have to turn to the trade market to fill their needs. There are a couple of interesting buy-low opportunities out there that the Red Sox could look into.
New Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is looking to eliminate some of the strikeout-prone bats from the 2010 team. He already declined the option on first baseman Adam LaRoche (30.7 percent strikeout rate), is fielding offers for 23-year-old Justin Upton (also 30.7 percent strikeout rate) and is said to be looking to move 32 home run bat Mark Reynolds, who struck out in a whopping 42.3 percent of his plate appearances. While Reynolds doesn’t exactly fit the Red Sox mold in terms of defense and plate discipline, he does do one thing extremely well and that is hit the long ball.
Reynolds only hit .198/.320/.433 in 2010, but he did draw a walk in almost 14 percent of his plate appearances and posted a .234 ISO, which ranked him in between Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre. The thought here is two pronged. First, there is a chance that Reynolds takes a better approach in 2011 given his lack of success in 2010. Second, no matter what, Reynolds is going to hit a lot of home runs, especially in Fenway. If the Sox have runners on base in front of him, he could add to a bunch of big innings.
There are negative risks involved, of course. Reynolds strikeout rate has worsened for four straight seasons. If that continues — it’s hard to fathom him actually getting any worse — he could end more rallies than he contributes to. The fact that the Green Monster would be looming over his front shoulder could also make him a bit too pull happy – - though that may actually be a good thing if he can pepper the wall or go over the wall with some frequency. Also, as has been well documented, Reynolds is not much of a defensive player at all. If the Sox were to add him via trade, he’d likely be shifted to first base with Youkilis at third.
The contractual obligation the Sox would acquire is actually not too bad. Reynolds is owed only $5M in 2011 and $7.5M in 2012 with an $11M club option in 2013 that comes with a $0.5M buyout. As it so happens, the Sox will more than likely have a spot opening up at designated hitter in 2012, where it seems Reynolds is destined to end up sooner or later in his career. In essence, they’d only be dealing with his defensive problems for one season. If things did’t work out in 2011, the Sox could probably eat most of his 2012 salary in a trade.
Reynolds does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract of which the details are unknown.
Then there is a former top prospect that has fallen on hard times…
The Royals are apparently fielding offers for left fielder Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft, Gordon has failed to live up to expectations in Kansas City while spending much of each season bouncing between Triple-A and the bigs. However, some of Gordon’s rate stats have been trending up over the last few years and the 26-year-old still has some upside in his game.
Gordon has always done a good job of drawing walks. His career minor league walk rate is 14.6 percent and he has drawn walks in 10 percent of his major league plate appearances. If he can raise his AVG, we could be looking at an OBP around .350 per season. The AVG, however, has been a problem. Gordon has not fared well against left handed pitching in the big leagues — he has a .214 in 420 at-bats. That split stat did improve slightly from 2008 to 2009 before the Royals had him spend most of 2009 and 2010 at Triple-A. In the last two years, Gordon only has 109 at-bats against left-handed pitching at the big league level.
There may not be a lot of room for Gordon to improve on his strikeout rate, but he did show a better contact rate and chase rate in 2010. In 1442 career major league at-bats, Gordon has a 20 percent line drive rate. Those three factors shed an optimistic light on Gordon improving in the AVG department.
Between Triple-A and the majors last season, Gordon hit 22 home runs and he has the skills to be a 20-home run threat at the big league level. At this point, he needs the every-day opportunity and probably a change of scenery.
While Gordon was transitioned to left field with the Royals, he could still conceivably play third base again and he has experience at first base as well. That would give the Sox options. They could try Gordon at third and move him to first if his instincts have been lost at the hot corner. They could also have him as a backup plan should injuries strike the current outfield.
Contractually, Gordon made $1.15M last season and only has about 2.2 years of major league service time. He’s cheap and under team control.
The third base market is thin and Adrian Beltre is going to take advantage of that. He may have already priced himself out of the Red Sox range, but if he doesn’t return to Boston, all is not lost. Mark Reynolds and Alex Gordon represent some creative alternatives that won’t cost the Red Sox a lot of money and years of commitment like the upper level free agent market would. As a matter of fact, it may be more beneficial to go the trade route as the free agent market has already shown itself to be inflated for the first time in a few years (see: Buck, John and Benoit, Joaquin).
Are Reynolds and Gordon plan A type of options? Not at all. But things don’t always go according to plan. At least each player has significant upside as am alternative option and should come fairly cheap.