Free agent frustrations

As I mentioned in my last post, Adrian Beltre is the first guy that I’ve been disappointed in missing. Adding Glaus, Pavano, and Finley would have been a nice boost to the team, but Beltre was the guy I was most excited about.

First of all, for some reason I thought we had a shot at him. Based on all the local specualtion, reports from national media (Gammons, Rosenthal, etc), and my own hopes it seemed plausible. Beltre was looking for a big long term deal, the Tigers had big money to spend (supposedly) and were eager to make a splash. His former team promptly signed an insurance policy (Kent) because they felt he wouldn’t be coming back.

Assuming the Tigers were interested, which is a big assumption, they were only competing with the Mariners’ and the Dodgers. LA was content to let him walk if they thought he got too pricey. That left the Mariners as the main suitor. The same Mariners who finished with 99 losses and 29 games out of first place. The same Mariners’ who play in Safeco which was the worst hitters park in the American League. Ballpark and winning are two of the common reason we hear about players not coming to Detroit. Seattle manages to lose more games, play in a less conducive hitters environment, and they manage to sign two sluggers. If it all comes down to Detroit not being on the west coast, or Detroit being too cold then Detroit is going to be in a world of hurt for a long time.

This leads me to believe that the Tigers weren’t ever in on Beltre. And really, it isn’t the Tigers’ fault that the media may have exagerated their interest. But what I don’t get is why they weren’t interested. Detroit definitely identified third base as an area of need as evidenced by the pursuit of Glaus, Koskie, and Renteria.

It’s the interest in Renteria, and the lack of interest in Beltre that have me most perplexed. Rumors had the Renteria offer at 4 years and $9 million per year. That would mean that Renteria would have been under contract from age 29-32 where players are typically productive but beginning to decline. Also Renteria would have been playing short where you would expect his defense to decline has his range decreases. Beltre with a 5 year contract would have been signed from age 26-30, right during his peak seasons, and a defensive decline playing third at those ages wouldn’t be expected. So over the life of the contract, it seems you’d have better defense on the left side between Beltre and Guillen than Guillen and Renteria.

Offensively, there is reason to be concerned that last year might have been a fluke for Beltre. His slugging percentage of .629 was 154 points higher than his previous season high (.475 in 2002). What seems the most suspicious is that the boost in power came exclusively from home runs. His 48 homers more than doubled any previous season, while his doubles and triples stayed pretty much in line with past performance. Even if last year was a fluke, it isn’t unreasonable for him to continue to improve on his career numbers of 272/334/463 as he moves into his peak seasons. When you compare Beltre’s career numbers to Renteria’s 289/346/400 and take into account that Renteria has most likely played through his peak seasons, Beltre looks better and better. The question then becomes, is Beltre worth another year of risk, and $4 million more per year? I guess that the Tigers decided he wasn’t worth the risk.

In all fairness, I don’t have access to the information that the Tigers do. I think Dombrowski has done a great job so far, and he has a proven track record. I also have no idea what happened as far as what offers were and weren’t made. I can only go by the reports that I read, and I know Dombrowski doesn’t negotiate in the media. I also fully understand setting a limit to what you’ll pay for a player. I love that they walked away from Glaus and Koskie when the price got too high. I don’t want them to sign a player for the sake of signing someone (Derek Lowe). However, I just don’t get the disparity in the perceived interest in Renteria and the lack of interest in Beltre.


  1. Justin

    December 18, 2004 at 1:54 am

    I couldn’t agree more. While I have no real confidence in Beltre repeating his performance (I agree with Joe Sheehan’s recent BP column on this one), it would have been a much better deal than Renteria.

    I have had the fortune to live in St. Louis these past two years while attendig college, and I disagree vehemently that Renteria is anything other than a very good defensive player. Significantly better than Guillen whom I watched often on MLB’s All Access (plug). I am no scout however, and take it for what its worth.

    Nonetheless, ther is no way that he is worth the money he was signed for. His bat is mediocre at best, and should have been better in that lineup he was in. I would bet dollars to donuts that Omar Infante can and will out perform Renteria for the next four years. Add in the fact that I am great believer in the Dollars for Marginal Win idea, and Renteria is a bad idea.

    Beltre would make me nervous, but at the money he signed for, I don’t see why the Tigers wouldn’t have offered him more. The Tigers have a better pitching staff (shocking though that may be) and don’t have to deal with Oakland, Anaheim, or Texas. I bet Beltre’s contract runs out without the Mariners reaching the playoffs.

    I STILL don’t understand why the Tigers aren’t aggresively pursuing Beltran. For a franchise willing to throw money down the Juan Gonzalez toilet a few years back… well, why not force the Yankees to pay him more than they are comfortable, especially with The Unit apparently headed there. Beltran’s switch-hitting stylings wouldn’t be that effected by CoPa (he’d probably lead the league in doubles and triples) and he’d win Gold Glove after Gold Glove out there in the vastness of CF.

    Alright, I know its a pipe dream. I’ll stop.

  2. Justin

    December 18, 2004 at 2:00 am

    Oh, yes. I love DD, but his idea that no player should take up 1/6 of a teams payroll is batty and indefensible. The Tigers have a lot of young, cheap talent, and (as you ably pointed out) a lot of money coming of the books soon. You win with stars. Pay them star money.

  3. Dan Joseph

    December 18, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    Justin, I had heard from several of the local media that Dombrowski has this “1/6” rule, meaning that he won’t give one player more than 1/6 of the total payroll. I guess he went by this in Florida, and it worked.

    Seems that he should maybe look at the (broken) economics of today’s MLB. Maybe paying for Beltran is a good idea. Maybe not. I think Beltre would have been a fine addition. I expect him to be a 300+ hitter each year.

  4. McCourts cheap wallet

    December 20, 2004 at 10:43 am

    I watched Beltre in LA from day 1. Let met tell you this guy will repeat those numbers. he knows how to hit to the whole field and for power. His approach at the plate was the key last year. He takes pitches and drives mistakes out. He has incredible D at 3rd and can even play short(in preseason he did).