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Why the Beltre Deal Worked for Both Sides

01.08.10 at 12:51 pm ET
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Yes, Scott Boras admitted, when he talked to clubs about Adrian Beltre, he was seeking a huge multi-year offer. But that quest, the agent insisted, was always done with the idea in mind that the third baseman, following a 2009 campaign in which his playing time and offensive production were severely impacted by injuries, would ultimately end up pursuing a one-year contract in a setting that would allow him to re-establish his performance before seeking a bigger contract.

Beltre was presented with a number of three-year offers — by the agent’s reckoning, three or four such offers for a player recovering from injury represented an extraordinary occurrence. But ultimately, Beltre saw the potential fit of going from a ballpark (Safeco) that is death to right-handed power hitter for a year to one that rewards such a class, trying to mash the ball and sustain his Gold Glove-caliber defense as too good an opportunity to pass up. This was in both sides’ short-term interests for 2010 and also in Beltre’s long-term interest going forward.

“In this situation, economics weren’€™t the priority as much as positioning coming off the injury season. He’€™s an elite player. He was not going to get an elite contract coming off an injury season. He was going to get a good contract but not an elite one,” said Boras. “I told teams, ‘€˜If you’€™re interested in him, it’€™s going to take a multi-year deal at big numbers. Otherwise, we’€™re going to do something different.’€™ We basically did that. That doesn’€™t mean teams didn’€™t attempt to sign him, which is very rare, fielding multiple three-year contract offers for a player coming off an injury season.

“I told Adrian coming in, ‘€˜I’€™m going to do a pillow contract for us. If someone comes up and really makes this work economically, if someone came up and gave us a four-year contract at elite money, I would probably say take that. Other than that, re-establish a full season, illustrate who you are and then in a year go back in the marketplace.'”

(As an aside – that, of course, raises the question: what on earth is a pillow contract. To Boras we go: “A pillow contract is, basically, you lay down, it’€™s comfortable, it’€™s soft, it’€™s there. But the fact of the matter is it’€™s not with you all the time. That’€™s a one-year contract. Your pillow, you leave it, you come back, it’€™s there,” said Boras. “Short-term, you use it for a little bit, then you move on.”)

The two sides worked through some of the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement, specifically as it pertains to luxury tax, to figure out how to make the contract work within the Sox’ payroll structures. There was creativity, as Beltre’s deal — thanks to the structure of the player option, as well as the corresponding move to trade Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in exchange for Bill Hall, cash and a player to be named — made a minimal impact on the Sox’ payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes.

Ultimately, Beltre got a contract that will give him a higher salary in 2010 ($9 million, potentially $10 million if he reaches a plate appearances threshold) than what he was being offered in the multi-year deals that were reportedly in the three-year, $24 million range from teams like the A’s and Twins. He will go to a park that will do more to reward his approach at the plate than just about any other park — something that will be novel after a career spent in Safeco and Dodger Stadium.

“[Safeco] is a beautiful ballpark. But as a hitter, sometimes you make contact and you expect a little better result. It didn’€™t work out that way,” said Beltre. “Sometimes you’€™re going to take a hit on your at-bats if you’€™re not confident. Sometimes you hit a ball and think it will be a gapper or maybe a homer and it ends up being an out.  Next at-bat, you probably think about trying to hit it a little harder. that’€™s here the problem comes, creating some bad habits. Maybe that won’€™t happen here.”

As Sox G.M. Theo Epstein pointed out, Beltre could benefit enormously simply by being anywhere but Safeco.

“We think Fenway is a fit for Adrian. It’€™s hard to emphasize just how much Safeco deflates offensive performance for right-handed power hitters. It’€™s really a tough place to hit,” said Epstein. “Mike Cameron, I know, talked about it when he was in here. It’€™s a difficult place to put up any kind of numbers, left field, left-center, center field, even if you hit the ball well to the opposite field, it’€™s hard to get rewarded as a right-handed hitter there. Obviously Fenway is a nice place to hit if you can elevate the ball to the pull side. It also doesn’€™t take away from a nice opposite field stroke.

“Adrian’€™s natural stroke sometimes is to the opposite field, which is fine. He’€™ll be rewarded here in the gaps. Pull-side elevation will obviously be rewarded. We think he’€™ll be a nice fit. Just getting out of Safeco even moreso than getting to Fenway is significant if you look at Adrian’€™s road performance over the years, it’€™s very impressive what he’€™s done outside of Safeco, and even before that, he was in a pitchers park in Dodger Stadium. It will be a nice change for him. And as he said, it’€™s more than just numbers. It’€™s a mindset and confidence and it’€™s effect on the whole ballclub.”

From 2006-08, Beltre hit .287/.338/.503/.840 on the road with 39 homers; at home, he hit .252/.311/.432/.743 with 37 homers. (Of course, that conveniently ignores the fact that Beltre was terrible on the road in 2005 (.248/.295/.440/.736) and during his injury-prone 2009…)

Boras is convinced that Beltre will be in a position to seek an elite contract following the season. If so, then Beltre will have gotten a deal that is to his long-term benefit.

On the other side of the coin, the Sox believe that this short-term deal fits perfectly into the team’s broader picture. Aside from the five-year deal to John Lackey (which creates an interesting phenomenon – how many other clubs in baseball have three pitchers (Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka) signed to deals of five or more seasons?), the team has been able to acquire a number of players on short-term deals. Marco Scutaro (2 years with both a team and player option for a third), Mike Cameron (two years) and Adrian Beltre (one year plus player option) should all help the club to remain competitive for the 2010 season while also avoiding a scenario when the Sox’ top farm players are blocked from the majors.

These short-term deals are precisely the bridge of which Epstein spoke earlier this offseason. The Sox believe they improved their defense signficantly, and acquired some players who will allow them to have a better-than-expected offense, without clogging the major-league roster for the long haul and without having to trade any top minor leaguers.

“Unless you get a steal of a contract, it’€™s always better to be short than long from a club’€™s perspective,” Epstein explained. “I probably regret ever saying the word bridge when I talked to you guys . . . What I meant was, we’€™ve been a good team, we’€™ve been to the playoffs six out of seven years, we’€™ve had a certain core in place, we’€™ve won 95 games six out of seven years, and I know we’€™re going to be good when I’€™m projecting into the future, players we really like in our farm system, our pre-prime players will still be in their prime.

“The building blocks are still in place to have a really strong foundation going forward, starting in a couple of years. The question was, how are we going to maintain competitiveness at the highest level this year, 2010, 2011. That’€™s why it was a bit of a bridge. A bridge from one pretty good team to what we project will be another pretty good team. How to get there without hamstringing the future, while maintaining competitiveness at the highest level. One way to do that is to sign really good players to shorter-term contracts, and to really solidify elements of the team like pitching and defense, and I’€™d like to think that we accomplished that, but there are no guarantees in baseball.”

Moreo

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Boras would let Beltre baby-sit his kids

01.08.10 at 12:39 pm ET
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Adrian Beltre was introduced as the Red Sox‘ newest third baseman Friday morning, joining his agent, Scott Boras, and Sox general manager Theo Epstein in answering questions from the media at Fenway Park.

Here are some things we learned at the get-together:

– Boras clearly thinks highly of Beltre, as a player and a person. The two were first introduced when Beltre was an 18-year-old (more on that later).

“Sometimes you run across people in your career that you think very highly of both skill-wise and as a person, and Adrian for me is one of those people,” said Boras, who hadn’t gotten into Boston until midnight Thursday night after flying straight from St. Louis, where he had the Matt Holliday press conference. “He’s one of those players who I would let baby-sit my children. I have always been completely infatuated with Adrian Beltre as a player.”

– Those in attendance are about to refute Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon’s assertion that Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in the game. (Maddon actually told our man Alex Speier that Beltre was the game’s best defensive player, period.)

– Boras and Beltre were perfectly happy taking the “pillow contract” from the Red Sox. (Such a deal is a one-year deal you can comfortably rest your head on before waking up and moving on, according to the agent.)

“He’s just someone I respect at the highest level. I trust him. When you ‘re out there turning down millions of dollars to come here on a one-year scenario … I did it for a reason,” Boras said. “His family is already taken care of from his prior contract. The other thing is that I just think he’s that good a player. He’s an elite player. He’s one of the best third basemen in the game. I would never advise him to sign a long-term contract unless it’s at a level where elite players get paid.

“When the Red Sox signed a pitcher I knew Adrian had a chance to come here because obviously if they signed a big position player they might have allocated these resources to a pitcher. When they chose to spend their franchise money on a starter I knew we had an ability to come in with a creative approach. We worked through it and created a ‘pillow contract’.”

‘€œIt’€™s true, I had many multi-year offers but I made the decision to come here and take my chances with a team that has a legitimate chance to get to the World Series,” Beltre said. “I’€™ve been in the big leagues for 11 years and have only been in the playoffs once. I like my chances. I like the organization and I like what’€™s going on here. I think the team is built to win. It’€™s a decision I made and I’€™m really happy about it.’€

– Beltre is clearly self-motivated. Coming over from the Dominican Republic as a 15-year-old, the infielder knew very little English but took it upon himself to meet up with a bilingual teammate from Cuba who taught Beltre one word a day. It has paid off as the third baseman is not only fluent in English, but his young his young children (3- and 6-years-old, respectively) also speak both languages. And then there is his work ethic on the field.

“He’s been nothing but discilpined,” Boras said. “This guy in spring training is out there at six o’clock taking 200 ground balls and he’s the best defensive third baseman in the game. He’s that kind of man, he’s that kind of player. Nobody tells Adrian Beltre what to do, he does it all on his own.”

– Beltre’s defense has been largely self-taught. Weighing just 130 pounds as a 15-year-old, the infielder’s power-hitting frame has clearly developed over his time as a professional. His defensive instincts, however, has been in place for sometime. An example of how natural defense has come to Beltre can be found when looking at how he executes fielding slow-rollers, which typically has his left leg high in the air upon throwing the ball to first. Beltre had no idea he possessed such a trademark high leg kick until Boras showed him a picture of the player while the agent was trying to teach his son the art of such a play.

– Epstein feels like Beltre and the Red Sox are a good match, for a few different reasons. (One of which is that he no longer has to play in the expanse of Safeco Field.)

‘€œWe think Fenway is a fit for Adrian,” the GM said. “It’€™s hard to emphasize just how much Safeco deflates offensive performance for right-handed power hitters. It’€™s really a tough place to hit. Mike Cameron, I know, talked about it when he was in here. It’€™s a difficult place to put up any kind of numbers, left field, left-center, center field, even if you hit the ball well to the opposite field, it’€™s hard to get rewarded as a right-handed hitter there. Obviously fenway is a nice place to hit if you can elevate the ball to the pull side. It also doesn’€™t take away from a nice opposite field stroke. Adrian’€™s natural stroke sometimes is to the opposite foeld, which is fine. He’€™ll be rewarded here in the gaps. Pull-side elevation will obviously be rewarded. We think he’€™ll be a nice fit. Just getting out of Safeco even moreso than getting to Fenway is significant if you look at Adrian’€™s road performance over the years, it’€™s very impressive what he’€™s done outside of Safeco, and even before that, he was in a pitchers park in Dodger Stadium. It will be a nice change for him. And as he said, it’€™s more than just numbers. It’€™s a mindset and confidence and it’€™s effect on the whole ballclub.

“As far as Red Sox fans, those who have stayed up late to watch us play out in seattle have seen Adrian make some great plays against us over the years, and beat us with home runs, one of the inside the park variety which you guys probably all remember. I think Adrian is the type of player you have to see day in and day out to appreciate not just what he does at third base and his ability to win games with the bat in his hand, but also the type of person that he is. His leadership skills and how hard he plays and how passionate he is about the game. I think he’€™s going to fit in with the Pedroia’s and the Youkilis’ of the world on this club and really help us have the right mindset day in and day out as we grind out what we hope will be our 95 wins and our playoff berth and a chance to win the World Series.’€

- Then there is the story of Beltre’s age. It was a well-documented case when it was discovered that Beltre was a year younger than had been initially reported by the Dodgers. This was surfaced at a dinner that included Boras just after the third baseman had been called up as a “20-year-old”. The agent was praising his client for being a rarity — a player who was making his major league debut at the age of 20 when the average for more rookie third basemen was 25. Beltre jumped in and said he didn’t know why everybody was saying he was 20 when he was only 19. That led to further investigation, that revealed that the Dodgers had illegally signed Beltre to a professional contact at the age of 15.

- As for the Red Sox’ incumbent third basemen, Mike Lowell, Epstein said:

‘€œWe’€™ve been in contact with Mike throughout the winter, most recently with his agent a few days ago. I think we’€™re actually on the same page on this one. For mike, it’€™s an unfortunate situation. It’€™s the second straight offseason in which he’€™s been rehabbing from surgery. His goal and our goal is for him to come to spring training and get back on the field and demonstrate his health and start playing, and playing well. I think this is a situation that will take care of itself. If mike gets out on the field and shows that he’€™s 100 percent healthy, as we expect him to be a couple of weeks into spring training and starts playing well, there will be an opportunity for him. If it’€™s here, if other players don’€™t show up in good health , or elsewhere. He’€™s going to be a sought-after player. We’€™ll probably be able to put mike in a situation either here or elsewhere where he can make an impact on a team. If he’€™s a little bit slower rehabbing or hasn’€™t quite gotten back to the position where he can play regularly, then I think mike feels like if he’€™s going to have a complementary type role, he’€™d rather have it here, better in Boston than anywhere else, the way he feels about the Red Sox and the way we feel about him. I know it might look awkward from the outside but it’€™s a situation that will probably take care of itself as long as we stay on the same page and we certainly are right now.’€

For more on Beltre …

Merloni: Why Beltre Signing Makes Sense

Bradford: Beltre’s Journey To Boston

Speier: Creative Accounting For Beltre

Speier: The Impact of Defense on the Red Sox

Speier: Why the Red Sox Targeted Beltre

Bradford: While Beltre is Introduced, Lowell Marches On

Nuggetpalooza: Adrian Beltre By the Numbers

Beltre Contract Details

01.07.10 at 7:32 pm ET
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Adrian Beltre’s one-year, $9 million contract with a $5 million player option for 2011, which was finalized today after the third baseman passed his physical, features a $2 million signing bonus and a $7 million salary for the coming season. There are no performance bonuses.

The contract also has a $5 million player for 2011 that could increase to $10 million in Beltre reaches 640 plate appearances. There is a conditional $1 million buyout of the player option that would be triggered if Beltre reaches 575 plate appearances.

It is also noteworthy that the Sox did not have to waive the right to offer Beltre salary arbitration — something that agent Scott Boras (and other agents) will sometimes seek for a player who is on a one-year deal, in order to give the player greater freedom when he next becomes a free agent.

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It’s official: Beltre, Hall with Red Sox

01.07.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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Here are the Red Sox‘ press releases regarding the acquisitions of free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and utility infielder Billy Hall, who comes over in a trade that sends Casey Kotchman to Seattle:

RED SOX ACQUIRE ADRIAN BELTRE

Beltre, 30, hit .265 (119-for-449) with 27 doubles, eight home runs, 44 RBI and 54 runs in 111 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2009.  He appeared at third base in all 111 contests, making 110 starts at the position.  Beltre finished sixth among American League third basemen with a .959 fielding percentage, committing 14 errors in 341 total chances.  He missed time during the 2009 campaign due to a pair of trips to the disabled list, including surgery on his left shoulder to remove bone spurs on June 30.

Originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an international free agent on July 7, 1994, Beltre made his Major League debut in 1998 at the age of 19.  He has hit .270 (1,700-for-6,285) with 348 doubles, 26 triples, 250 home runs, 906 RBI, 828 runs, 478 walks and 111 stolen bases in 1,681 Major League games over parts of 12 seasons with the Dodgers (1998-2004) and Mariners (2005-09).

A right-handed batter, he has hit 25 or more home runs in a season four times, including three straight years from 2006-08.  Beltre hit for the cycle with the Mariners on September 1, 2008 in Texas and earned a 2004 Silver Slugger Award when he led the Majors with a career-high 48 home runs.  That year, he also became just the 11th player in Major League history with at least 45 home runs and 200 hits in a single season.

The 2007 and 2008 American League Gold Glove Award winner at third base, Beltre has posted a .957 fielding percentage (205 errors/4,718 total chances) in 1,664 games (1,621 starts) at the position.  He leads all active third basemen with 1,319 putouts, is second with 3,194 assists and third with 297 double plays.

A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Beltre played in four Division Series games with the Dodgers in 2004.  He hit safely in three of the four contests, going 4-for-15 with an RBI and run scored.

RED SOX ACQUIRE BILLY HALL, A PLAYER TO BE NAMED PLAYER, AND CASH FOR CASEY KOTCHMAN

Hall, 30, batted .201 (67-for-334) with eight home runs and 36 RBI in 110 games between Milwaukee and Seattle last year.  He combined to post a .980 fielding percentage (5 E/256 TC) while appearing in 69 games at third base (51 starts), 22 in left field (22 starts), 15 in right (12 starts), three at second base (two starts) and one in center.

He began the season with the Brewers and hit .201 (43-for-214) with six homers and 24 RBI in 76 contests.  The right-handed hitter also appeared in four games for Triple-A Nashville, going 4-for-14 (.286) with one roundtripper and four RBI.  He was dealt to the Mariners on August 19 for right-handed pitcher Ruben Flores and appeared in 34 games for Seattle, batting .200 (24-for-120) with two home runs and 12 RBI.

Hall owns a .251 (701-for-2,796) average, 104 home runs and 379 RBI in 865 career Major League games for Milwaukee (2002-09) and Seattle (2009).  He has tallied 20 or more doubles in each of the last six seasons including three straight campaigns of at least 35 from 2005-2007.  In 2006 he set career highs with 101 runs, 35 homers and 85 RBI.  Hall was originally selected by the Brewers in the sixth round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.

Kotchman, 26, combined to hit .268 (103-for-385) with seven home runs and 48 RBI in 126 games with Atlanta and Boston in 2009.  He batted .282 (84-for-298) with six homers and 41 RBI in 87 games for the Braves before being traded for first baseman Adam LaRoche on July 31. The left-handed hitter posted a .218 (19-for-87) average, one homer and seven RBI in 39 games for the Red Sox.  He did not make an error in 114 games and 939 total chances at first base last year, becoming just the third qualifying Major Leaguer ever to record a 1.000 fielding percentage in a season at that position.

Originally taken by Anaheim in the first round (13th pick) of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Kotchman has a .269 (450-for-1,674) career batting average with 40 homers and 233 RBI in 520 games for the Angels (2004-08), Braves (2008-09) and Red Sox (2009).  His .998 career fielding percentage at first base is the highest in Major League history among players with at least 3,500 total chances.

Casey Kelly on D&H

01.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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Red Sox pitching prospect Casey Kelly joined the Dale & Holley Show on Thursday. Kelly will be in Boston on Saturday to take part in the New Stars for Young Stars, a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund that will feature several top Red Sox prospects as well as recently current (Jeremy Hermida and Manny Delcarmen) and former (Curt Schilling and Trot Nixon) members of the big-league club.

Kelly, who spent 2009 as both a pitcher and position player, spoke about the decision to leave behind a promising college football career, to commit to pitching, and trade rumors in which his name came up. To listen to the complete interview, click here. For information on the New Stars for Young Stars Event, click here.

How close were you to going to Tennessee to play quarterback?

Baseball was always my first love, but in high school, I started getting notices from big-time colleges. I signed a letter of intent to go to the University of Tennessee and play quarterback there.

Playing quarterback at a big-time college is unbelievable. It was definitely a tough decision for me. When it was all said and done, I definitely knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and that was to play baseball.

Were you signed by Phil Fulmer or Lane Kiffin?

My freshman year would have been Fulmer’€™s last year as head coach.

Why Tennessee?

The thing that drew me to Tennessee was just feeling comfortable with their coaching staff. They had Todd Helton, who played both baseball and football at Tennessee. I think that made me pick them, because they had been through both the baseball and football part and knew how to work it out.

You split the season as a pitcher and shortstop. Didn’€™t you want to be a shortstop?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cora: Bay will be fine

01.07.10 at 11:14 am ET
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At his introductory press conference at Citi Field, Tuesday afternoon, Jason Bay said that prior to signing with the Mets he leaned on three players when doing his homework. First was former Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner, whom Bay grilled about New York a few times in the back of the team plane. Then was former Pittsburgh teammate Xavier Nady.

The final reference Bay checked in on was Mets, and former Red Sox, infielder Alex Cora, albeit non-verbal communication.

“He texted me a few times in the middle part of December,” said Cora from his Miami-area home. “The last time we had communicated was the beginning of the football season, just talking about fantasy football, so I was kind of surprised when I got the text. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is for real!’ I knew we were interested, but to be honest when they mentioned Seattle I thought that was going to be a perfect fit for him. Then they went out and went another direction. And I always thought Boston was going to be in the hunt, but they signed (John) Lackey and (Mike) Cameron.”

But after going back and forth via text message, Cora started believing that the momentum regarding securing Bay’s services might be swinging in the Mets’ favor. Shortly thereafter, Mets general manager Omar Minaya touched base with his infielder to pick Cora’s brain regarding the outfielder whom he played with for three months in Boston.

“We talked a little bit, and that’s obviously part of doing his homework,” Cora said. “Everybody knows what J-Bay can do on the field, so it was more like was he was like as a person. Here’s how I put it to him — He went to Boston during one of the biggest distractions you could have, and while nobody wants to admit it he was there to replace Manny (Ramirez). During that whole time we were expected to win. That’s how tough it was, and I’m not saying New York is going to be easier, but it showed that he was going to be able to handle anything. That was the message.”

Cora also downplayed the challenges that lay ahead for Bay in regard to the spacious dimensions of Citi Field, citing the image of Arizona’s Mark Reynolds hitting four home runs in three days at the home of the Mets last summer.

“The ballpark plays big, but you have to realize that the lineup we were putting out there wasn’t too powerful last year,” Cora explained. “You could have put us in (Houston’s) Minute Maid Park, or (Philadelphia’s) Citizens Field and our power numbers would be down. I think it’s a fair place. I think he’ll be find.”

Papelbon: No negotiations yet

01.07.10 at 10:38 am ET
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Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon told ESPN.com that neither he or his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, have sat down with the Sox to discuss a contract. Papelbon is arbitration-eligible, having avoided the process last year by signing a record deal for a first-year arbitration-eligible player.

“We don’t even have a number in place,” he said in the report. “There haven’t been any discussions between me and the Red Sox and my agents at all … At the same time, I’m not afraid to show that, hey, I want to be with the Red Sox [in a multiyear deal]. I’d love to have that sense of security of being with a team and knowing, ‘Hey, they want me, and I want them, let’s have a happy marriage.’ But what do I have to give up to be in that marriage? Understand, I’m in the prime of my career. Why would I give up something? I’d give up something it’s fair to both sides, but I want to do things for my fellow closers, just like Mo paved the way for me. I want every closer out there, man, to get every penny they deserve.”

Papelbon was offered a multi-year deal by the Red Sox prior to last season, but instead signed for one-year, $6.25 million.

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