When he decides to call it a career, Adrian Beltre will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, or at least he should be. We now have a better idea of when he’ll decide to hang it up, because he is seeking a three-year extension from the Texas Rangers.
I’m always looking to expand my baseball knowledge, so I’ll have to check out that #:ighHeat show that Heyman’s talking about. I’ll look it up on my local listings. Anyway, Beltre is 36 years old and heading into his age-37 season in 2016. A three-year extension would have him under team control through his age-40 season. Normally, that’d be risky. And I’ve criticized giving big-money extensions to players of that age, more specifically in the case of Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays. Heyman is reporting that Beltre wants a three-year extension that has an average annual value in the neighborhood of $19 million. That’s steep, but only given his age. According to FanGraphs, Beltre was worth $37 million in 2015, $43.3 million in 2014 and $37 million in 2013. You could make a strong argument that he’s worth the investment that he’s seeking, but as I said with Bautista, you’re not paying him for what he did, you’re paying him for what you think he can do.
When you’re looking to give a multi-year extension to a player this late in their career, you have to look at trends. Over his 18-year career, Beltre has been as durable as they come. Even lately, over his last four seasons, he’s averaged 152 games played for the Rangers. But on the other hand, since we’re talking about trends, his OPS has trended downwards. From a .921 OPS in 2012, it dipped to .880 in 2013, .879 in 2014 and .788 last year, the lowest it’s been since his final season with the Seattle Mariners (.683).
Now, despite the downward trend in OPS, Beltre is still one of the best third basemen in the game. Last year, among qualified third basemen, Beltre was sixth in the MLB in WAR, and ninth in OPS out of 21 third basemen who qualified. Defensively, he’s still the best third baseman in the game, leading all who qualify at the position in UZR/150.
If I’m the Rangers, I see a player who’s aging and predictably in decline. In comparison to players at any position in the rest of the league, it’s less appealing. But when you break it down and look at where he stands among other third basemen, I’d feel more comfortable giving him a two-year extension. But if that third year is what gets you the first two, it’s a risk worth taking, especially given that he’s a lifetime .333 hitter with a .949 OPS in Texas, which is the second highest OPS for any ballpark that he’s played at least 50 games at. Obviously Coors Field is his highest, so the Rangers should feel good, knowing that technically he performs better in Texas than he does anywhere else. Pay the man.