In most cases, Major League Baseball free agency comes down to one determining factor: Money. We posed the question, “Where should Adrian Beltre play?” based on finding Beltre’s best statistical fit.
BeltreAccording to Keith Law’s “Buyer’s Guide”, Adrian Beltre is by far the top free agent third baseman this winter. Beltre had a tremendous year in Boston this season, hitting .321 with 28 home runs and eclipsing the 100-RBI mark for only the second time in his career. He also had a .365 OBP and a very respectable .919 OPS. His 49 doubles on the season also marked a career-high.
So naturally his best fit is with the Boston Red Sox, right? Not necessarily.
The 2010 season was Beltre’s best season since his near-MVP year in 2004 with the Dodgers, and by all accounts, he just looked comfortable with the Red Sox. In Boston, Beltre is surrounded by talent, played a strong third base and loved hitting at Fenway, as evidenced by his career-high in doubles and .314 average at home. Beltre’s successes weren’t limited to Fenway though, as he hit more doubles (30) and home runs (19) on the road than he did at home. This isn’t odd for Beltre, who has hit 32 points higher on the road for his career.
Beltre’s power swing fits Fenway Park perfectly. According to Hit Tracker, of his 111 home runs since 2006, 72 traveled to left field. His average home run distance was 396 feet over this span. Of the 420 home runs hit to left field at Fenway Park since 2006, the average distance has been 383 feet, putting Beltre’s average well beyond the distance needed to have high home run outputs at Fenway. Beyond the team being a solid fit for Beltre, the ballpark is just as cozy.
However, Boston isn’t Beltre’s only solid fit. The Chicago White Sox have a need at third base, and a very hitter-friendly park themselves, as U.S. Cellular Field led the Majors with 1.545 HR per game. If “Sox” aren’t Beltre’s style, he could pass them up for a pair of thermals in Colorado. The Rockies boast the most famous homer-happy stadium in baseball. In 2010, Coors Field was rated as the top hitters park in all of baseball, including an average of 1.496
home runs per game, good for second in the majors.
Beltre is no stranger to Coors Field. In 58 career games, Beltre has hit .399 with a .446 OBP while smashing 16 home runs and driving in 63 runs. He’s also managed a .715 slugging percentage and a staggering 1.161 OPS there. In addition to being a great fit for his bat, Beltre would join Gold Glove shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, anchoring what would have to be one of the strongest left-side defenses in all of baseball.
Colorado could look to upgrade from their platoon of Ian Stewart and Melvin Mora at third base. Mora, a “free agent to avoid” according to Law, will most likely not be back with the Rockies in 2011. Ian Stewart is still young, at 25, but has failed to make the kind of progress the Rockies were hoping for when they drafted him 10th overall in 2003. Most concerning is Stewart’s inability to hit lefties (.231 average in 2010), making him a platoon option at best. However, if the Rockies believe in Stewart, they could still make a play for Beltre while grooming Stewart to replace Todd Helton.