Can You Come Home Again?

Starting today TBLA is doing a four part series on the top four free agents that the Dodgers will not be bidding on. This is merely an exercise to keep our writing skills from atrophying while Brandon does all the heavy lifting until the winter meetings.

Monday - Phil - Adrian Beltre

Tuesday - Michael - Adam Dunn

Wednesday - David - Jayson Werth

Thursday - Eric - Carl Crawford

I expect on Thursday Eric will then post a poll about which player you think would most help the Dodgers in 2011 and beyond.

While Adrian Beltre has now been gone five years, it is shocking to find out the 31 year old Beltre still has more plate appearances as a Dodger than for other teams.  Beltre made his much anticipated debut at age 19 in 1998, garnering 3818 plate appearances from 1998 - 2004. From 2005 - 2010, he has made 3700 plate appearances with Seattle and Boston.

Beltre has had an amazing career, a 19 year old prodigy who actually had power and plate discipline at an early age. Sure, he struggled at age 19, but at ages 20 and 21 he almost had a 10% walk rate.  In retrospect, you look back at the 2001 season and you had no reason not to expect the moon. A 9.7% walk rate, an ISO of .187, an OPS of .835, an OPS+ of 114, a dominating fielder, a wOBA of .362.  Since we had just traded the greatest home grown hitting Los Angeles Dodger ever, it seemed just right that Beltre fill that void.

Then in 2001, his age 22 year old season, instead of a natural progression he dropped his plate discipline by 1/2, his power went back to his age 19 year old season, and he gave us three straight years of hair tearing out inconsistency. In 2002 and 2003 he simply could not hit in the first half, .646 OPS in the first half of 2002, and .642 in 2003. Then he'd find his game and give us second halves of .801 in 2003, and .829 in 2002. He wasn't setting the world on fire, but at least in the 2nd half he was actually a productive player.

By the time 2004 rolled around he was still only 25 but the expectations had waned, and at most, Dodger fans hoped he would simply put together two halves of productive baseball. It was his free agent year and no one went out with a bang more then Adrian Beltre. Andrew Grant has called it one of the flukiest seasons in history but since we are talking about a guy who will end up in the top ten, maybe five in home runs for a 3rd baseman, I have a hard time buying into that, but it was one hell of a fluke season based on everything he did before and after.  48 home runs, previous high 23, wOBA of .424 with a previous high of .364, but an average wOBA of .310. OPS of 1.017, previous high .835, OPS+ of 163, previous high 114.

With Scott Boras as his agent,  Beltre took his future and headed to Seattle. Six years later he's again on the free agent market, and now he's coming off the second great season of his career. He earned 3 of the 5 years of his contract with Seattle by playing great defense and putting up okay offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman. His last year there was injury marred, so he was only able to get a one year deal with Red Sox. A healthy Beltre playing in an offensive park put up some serious numbers.  So serious it is now hard to say 2004 was a fluke. 915 OPS, 141 OPS+, and a .390 wOBA.

How did those 2010 numbers compare to other 3rd baseman? OPS+ was 3rd just one point behind both Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman (Bautista was more an outfielder). wOBA was more of the same behind the same suspects.

Beltre is going to get  a great deal, and the Dodgers could really use a 3rd baseman now and in the future along with a with big bat. Is Beltre's bat big enough? Sure if he hits like he did last year, but how about if he does what we should expect and barely puts up a .800 OPS along with some of the best defense in the league?  Delias Man has said that you can't come home but even he has admitted that he'd love to see Beltre give it a shot. I agree, of all the free agents that one might consider impact players, Adrian Beltre is the man I'd most like to see Ned give his attention to.

Right now Beltre is 17th in career home runs for a 3rd baseman at 278.  I think if he signs a four year deal he could be knocking on the sixth spot by the end of his run. Quite an accomplishment for a player we all thought of as a huge disappointment at age 24.

                                                       
Player HR Age PA 2B 3B RBI BB OPS
Mike Schmidt 548 22-39 10062 408 59 1595 1507 .908
Eddie Mathews 512 20-36 10101 354 72 1453 1444 .885
Chipper Jones 436 21-38 9654 493 37 1491 1404 .941
Darrell Evans 414 22-42 10737 329 36 1354 1605 .792
Graig Nettles 390 22-43 10226 328 28 1314 1088 .750
Matt Williams 378 21-37 7595 338 35 1218 469 .805
Gary Gaetti 360 22-41 9817 443 39 1341 634 .741
Ron Santo 342 20-34 9396 365 67 1331 1108 .826
Troy Glaus 320 21-33 6355 293 10 950 854 .847
Vinny Castilla 320 23-38 7384 349 28 1105 423 .797
George Brett 317 20-40 11624 665 137 1595 1096 .857
Ron Cey 316 23-39 8344 328 21 1139 1012 .799
Scott Rolen 303 21-35 7919 480 39 1212 859 .867
Robin Ventura 294 21-36 8271 338 14 1182 1075 .806
Aramis Ramirez 289 20-32 6332 338 18 1029 458 .839
Ken Boyer 282 24-38 8268 318 68 1141 713 .810
Adrian Beltre 278 19-31 7518 397 28 1008 518 .791
Dean Palmer 275 20-34 5513 231 15 849 502 .796
Brooks Robinson 268 18-40 11782 482 68 1357 860 .723
Tim Wallach 260 22-38 8908 432 36 1125 649 .732
Larry Parrish 256 20-34 7450 360 33 992 529 .757
Todd Zeile 253 23-38 8649 397 23 1110 945 .769

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/7/2010.

Along those same lines if he hits about 100 home runs during his four year contract he could easily become number two on the all-time Dodger home run list.

                                                      
Player HR From To Age PA OPS Pos
Eric Karros 270 1991 2002 23-34 6624 .782 *3/D
Ron Cey 228 1971 1982 23-34 6108 .804 *5
Steve Garvey 211 1969 1982 20-33 7027 .796 *35/794
Mike Piazza 177 1992 1998 23-29 3017 .966 *2/D3
Pedro Guerrero 171 1978 1988 22-32 4089 .893 59783/4
Raul Mondesi 163 1993 1999 22-28 3765 .838 *98/7
Shawn Green 162 2000 2004 27-31 3462 .876 *93/D8
Willie Davis 154 1960 1973 20-33 8035 .725 *8/97
Adrian Beltre 147 1998 2004 19-25 3818 .794 *5/6
Dusty Baker 144 1976 1983 27-34 4552 .780 *7/89
Mike Marshall 137 1981 1989 21-29 3546 .774 *937/5
Gary Sheffield 129 1998 2001 29-32 2276 .998 *7/9D

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/7/2010.

He also is at 1,889 hits, so 2,000 is given in 2011. Who cares about hits? If he simply averages 150 hits over the next five years he will end up with 2,639 hits and be in fourth place behind three HOF 3rd baseman - Boggs, Brett, and Robinson - though his career will look more like the person he passed for fourth place, Buddy Bell.

Only 33 players have had over 1,800 hits at the age of 31 since integration, and the list is loaded with players who were good until at least age 35. I like Beltre's chances of continuing to be productive for most of his four year contract.

                                                          
Player                H From   To   Age  HR   BB  SB   OPS
Hank Aaron         2266 1954 1965 20-31 398  663 149  .943
Alex Rodriguez     2250 1994 2007 18-31 518  915 265  .967
Robin Yount        2217 1974 1987 18-31 174  611 185  .773
Vada Pinson        2171 1958 1970 19-31 220  472 232  .801
Al Kaline          2087 1953 1966 18-31 279  804 109  .872
Edgar Renteria     2070 1996 2008 19-31 127  634 280  .753
Richie Ashburn     2067 1948 1958 21-31  21  867 190  .792
Roberto Clemente   2029 1955 1966 20-31 143  380  64  .803
Roberto Alomar     2007 1988 1999 20-31 151  758 377  .820
Frank Robinson     2004 1956 1967 20-31 403  856 171  .955
Ken Griffey        1987 1989 2001 19-31 460  885 175  .945
Derek Jeter        1936 1995 2005 21-31 169  636 215  .847
Cal Ripken         1922 1981 1992 20-31 273  752  32  .805
Pete Rose          1922 1963 1972 22-31 109  611  85  .808
Orlando Cepeda     1902 1958 1969 20-31 306  453 132  .855
Nellie Fox         1902 1947 1959 19-31  27  521  71  .737
Albert Pujols      1900 2001 2010 21-30 408  914  75 1.050
Rod Carew          1897 1967 1977 21-31  69  535 244  .840
Adrian Beltre      1889 1998 2010 19-31 278  518 113  .791
Ron Santo          1888 1960 1971 20-31 300  939  33  .839
Ivan Rodriguez     1875 1991 2003 19-31 231  359  90  .832
Mickey Mantle      1875 1951 1963 19-31 419 1291 135 1.011
Curt Flood         1854 1956 1969 18-31  85  439  88  .733
Joe Torre          1851 1960 1972 19-31 216  587  19  .838
Eddie Murray       1850 1977 1987 21-31 305  782  56  .875
Player                H From   To   Age  HR   BB  SB   OPS
Willie Mays        1846 1951 1962 20-31 368  725 240  .978
Rusty Staub        1840 1963 1975 19-31 197  878  37  .798
Eddie Mathews      1834 1952 1963 20-31 422 1155  62  .922
Carl Yastrzemski   1832 1961 1971 21-31 257  985 111  .877
Bill Mazeroski     1819 1956 1968 19-31 127  380  24  .676
Buddy Bell         1813 1972 1983 20-31 136  529  43  .746
Jim Rice           1804 1974 1984 21-31 304  451  53  .877
Cesar Cedeno       1801 1970 1982 19-31 171  575 503  .802

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/8/2010.

More importantly the Dodgers have no one capable of playing 3rd baseman after the 2011 season. 3rd baseman prospects throughout baseball seem to be dropping like flies and turning into 1st baseman or outfielders. I'd like the Dodgers options of finding an outfielder from the system or via a trade more then a 3rd baseman.

Eric has us down for 94 Million with two starters, and an outfielder still on the wish list. So going for a 3rd baseman when we already have a 3rd baseman does not seem the greatest strategy, but I think it is easier to cobble together a fairly inexpensive platoon in LF that can OPS over .800 then it is at 3rd base.  Also the top two TBLA prospects are outfielders, with no 3rd baseman any where in sight, unless you consider Russell Mitchell a 3rd baseman.

This is a selfish opinion predicated on the fact that even though Beltre was a Dodger disappointment for much of his career he was still one of my favorite players,  and I'd love for him to prove you can come home again.

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