Because I skipped a day before finishing Ian Kinsler’s profile, the day of reckoning will soon approach where I’ll be forced to consolidate these long-ish types of articles into two short(er) ones to compensate for the missing day. This is not one of those days.
After handling the starting rotation, catcher, and both the 1st and 2nd basemen, today we shift focus to the adjacent side of the diamond with the Rangers’ 3rd baseman, Adrian Beltre.
Not a whole lot needs to be said about Adrian, to be honest, as he figures to be the key bat in our lineup in 2013, as well as the most veteran of all the current position player veterans. Beltre, 33, will be entering his 3rd of 5 guaranteed seasons with the Rangers, as he was inked to a 5-year, $80 million free agent contract (with a vesting option in year-6) before the 2011 season.
So far, he’s been magnificent.
In 2011, he produced an offensive clip of .296/.331/.561 (134 wRC+, 5.6 fWAR), which was succeeded by an even more stellar 2012, where he hit at a triple slash of .321/.359/.561 (140 wRC+, 6.5 fWAR). Combined with his defense, which is arguably/universally known as the best 3rd base glove in the Major Leagues, and he’s been worth 12.1 fWAR in two years. That’s the highest total of any full-time 3rd baseman in that time.
If you think about that for a minute, the math is startling, but in a good way. Given the price of each WAR is $5 million, that means he’s already accumulated $60 million in value (12.1 fWAR x $5 million) in just two years. Wrap your heads around that. It means, to justify the terms of his contract from a WAR perspective, he needs to produce about 4.0 wins over the next 3 years. He might accomplish that by the time August rolls around in 2013. Seriously. There was certainly some trepidation amongst Rangers’ fans a couple years ago when he was signed for so long and for so many dollars — probably due to the futile years he spent in Seattle — but it undoubtedly appears Jon Daniels knocked this one out of the park.
But maybe you don’t give a damn about WAR. Maybe you couldn’t care less about how his overall game translates into quantifiable, objective data. That’s fine. Whether you elect to view it from the perspective of “he’s a good clubhouse presence,” or “he’s a strong leader,” or whatever, Adrian Beltre still checks out. He offers a seasoned palate of intangibles as well as an elite skill set, so there’s nothing left to argue about. Adrian Beltre is the most important player in our lineup. And that’s basically that.
If we had known what we were getting ourselves into, we sure as hell would have paid more than $80 million for him. Baseball is funny like that, because while we, as fans, were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off when Cliff Lee decided to sign with Philadelphia, the ensuing Adrian Beltre signing felt more like a disappointing afterthought. We were more like Well, that’s cool, I guess. Now we can sit back, reflect, and appreciate the phenomenal string of success Cliff Lee had in Texas, while at the same time knowing just how good we have it with a franchise cornerstone such as Beltre holding down the fort at 3rd base.
For what it’s worth, Bill James has Beltre producing a triple slash line of .291/.338/.504 in 2013, while FanGraphs has him penciled in at .299/.339/.522, worth another 6.1 fWAR.
If you’re asking me, which I don’t know why you would, I believe Adrian has one more elite season left in him. Remember, he is on the wrong side of 30, and you never really know when production will escape a player. It might not happen until his contract expires, but, thinking logically, you have to figure it will begin to precipitously decline at some point relatively soon. Beltre is such a hallmark for consistency that his offensive numbers will very likely continue to be strong, and that’s something the Rangers need mightily in 2013. Without a strong year from Beltre, Texas may find themselves in a precarious situation come trade deadline time. However, if I had to put a number on it, I’d say Adrian is a solid bet to produce between 5.5 and 6.0 fWAR in 2013, perhaps putting himself in the MVP discussion again.
Addendum: 49ers 26, Ravens 13