When Adrian Beltre signed with the Seattle Mariners, big things were expected from him. There were rumblings, though, about how he had just had his best season in a contract year and may not be worth the money.
His time in Seattle had it’s ups and downs but Beltre never shook the feeling that he was a player who had a season way over his career norms at the best time to cash in a new contract. He was, in the eyes of the general fan and the media, a bust. But Seattle knew what they had in him, and although Beltre’s potential will probably always be better than his actual production, it seems that the gap is always perceived to be bigger than it is.
Quick, since 1998, name the best third basemen in baseball. The most obvious answer might be Chipper Jones. Next, with an asterisk because he came up as a shortstop, is probably Alex Rodriguez. Then, after those two who are the most valuable (in terms of Fangraphs WAR) third basemen from 1998-2012? Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre. That’s it. Beltre is the fourth best 3B in baseball since he started in the league and although that is a bit misleading due to the fact that guys like Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman don’t have the career length to jump higher on the list yet there is another very interesting number.
I wanted to go a little bit further back. So I did. Since 1969, Beltre is the 13th best 3B in baseball (again, by Fangraphs WAR). That’s pretty unbelievable but the thing is, despite not living up to his expectations in Seattle mostly due to Safeco field, he has had an unbelievable career and yet people still aren’t satisfied.
This past week when he hit for the cycle and knocked out three homeruns, that was a glimpse of Adrian Beltre. A lot of people think that the Rangers offense goes through Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is very good, but if he leaves in free agency at least the Rangers will still have Beltre. He is the cog in that machine. When he missed time early in the season, there was a hole in the lineup. When he played at DH, there was a hole where his defense wasn’t and Michael Young‘s was.
Mike Olt is a very good prospect but even he may not be able to supplant Beltre and make a role for himself at third base. Beltre splashes with his defense and his from-his-knee homeruns but he is more than splashes of greatness. Adrian Beltre is one of the best third basemen of this generation but has played in the shadows most of his career. With a strong week, he may have crept out just a little bit but unfortunately, the stigma of his time in Seattle and his reputation as a contract year player has overshadowed his very good career.