On a day when the latest inductees into Cooperstown are announced, it’s only fitting that we discuss a future Hall-of-Famer who will not go into the Hall as a Dodger, but should have! It was just over 13 years ago, that Adrian Beltre left the Dodgers for the Seattle Mariners. Many fans are up in arms over the fact that Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez were traded away, but Adrian Beltre was arguably the best of the group and may indeed go down in history as the greatest third-baseman of all time. Piazza and Martinez were great players, but Adrian Beltre may be the greatest third baseman of all time… and he should have been a Dodger for life. How he got away sickens me.
Steve Henson of The LA Times wrote this:
Beltre believes the Dodgers nudged him out the door after seven seasons of service, including a 2004 performance that should have earned him employee-of-the-year honors in a runaway. He believes the front office was indifferent, indecisive and, perhaps, incapable of paying the going rate for a 25-year-old third baseman who batted .334 with 48 home runs and 121 runs batted in.
“This wasn’t easy for me,” he said. “I never thought about leaving the Dodgers. They said to my face they would try to do what it took to keep me in L.A. I believed what they said.”
Dodger owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Paul DePodesta met with him after the season and he says they informed him that re-signing him was their top priority. Contact thereafter was sporadic.
Beltre’s agent, Scott Boras, sat down with DePodesta at the general manager meetings in November and at the winter meetings last week. DePodesta left the latter meeting optimistic that an agreement could be reached.
Boras remained in frequent telephone contact with DePodesta, but no offer was forthcoming from the team that signed Beltre at 15, vaulted him to the major leagues at 19 and persevered as he slowly developed into a star.
Beltre figured he could show some patience too.
“I was waiting for their offer and couldn’t call other teams back,” he said. “I was in my house, waiting on the Dodgers forever.”
Figures from other teams began to roll in, including $90 million over seven years from the Detroit Tigers, according to an industry source. An American League team on the East Coast gave Beltre 24 hours to accept an offer. The deadline passed and the Dodgers remained silent.
The Mariner cash remained on the table, but for how long? They needed an answer because they were also pursuing free-agent slugger Carlos Delgado.
Meanwhile, the three-team blockbuster trade that would free up significantly more Dodger payroll by unloading right fielder Shawn Green and pitchers Brad Penny, Kazuhisa Ishii and Yhency Brazoban was in the works.
Clearly, the Dodgers could have increased their offer to Beltre had the trade been finalized. But DePodesta disputed the notion that McCourt made re-signing Beltre contingent on the trade.
“This was me, it was my decision to make,” he said. “This wasn’t Frank telling me what to do.”
When the Dodgers did make Beltre an offer Tuesday night after DePodesta and McCourt returned from a dinner meeting with free-agent pitcher Matt Clement, it was far too little and borderline too late.
The Dodgers offered slightly less than $60 million over six years, backloaded so only $8 million would be paid next season, according to sources close to the negotiation. Beltre signed for $64 million over five years, frontloaded to include $17 million next season.
Adrian Beltre was gone and that would prove to be one of the biggest blunders of all time. After Paul DePodesta was fired, he never got back to the GM chair and likely won’t. That’s his legacy – losing the best third baseman of all time for a few million dollars.
Last season, Adrian hit .300 with 32 HR and 104 RBI at age 37. He has had over 500 plate appearances every year except one after his rookie year. He has been remarkably durable and it appears he wants to play two more years. He will go over 3,000 hits early this season and has 445 HR, 1,571 RBI and a career batting average of .286 to go with his career OPS of .818. Lest we forget, he is one of the top fielding third-basemen EVER! Paul Depodesta, you really screwed up!
All time, Adrian Beltre is 5th among 3B in WAR with 90.2. He could be 2nd, behind Mike Schmidt as soon as this year. The fact is, all four players ahead of him are retired and all four are in the HOF. The Third Base JAWS leaders are HERE, in case you want to see for yourself.
One can only wonder what would have happened if Adrian Beltre still played 3B for LA… I don’t think the World Series drought would be nearly as long. Maybe McCourt would not let De Podesta sign Beltre, but Adrian is not the kind of player you let walk for such a small (in baseball parlance) amount of money. He’s a Hall-of-Famer and I called him that nearly 20 years ago.