It's beginning to turn into a yearly occurrence in Arlington, almost like clockwork. For a third straight year, Adrian Beltre is one of the game's hottest hitters moving into the second half of the season. At what point do we stop being surprised by every Beltre hot streak and start appreciating that we might possibly be watching the best third baseman the Rangers have ever had? Actually, that last part shouldn't even include "might possibly be". We'll just say we are watching just that, because Beltre offers the whole package, and it's not likely we'll see anything like him in Arlington for quite some time once he's gone.
After a 4-for-4 night that included 2 home runs, 5 RBI, and a walk, Beltre has raised his triple-slash line to .319/.362/.551 for an OPS of .913. For an offense that came into the season looking to replace some of what walked out the door with Josh Hamilton, Beltre is doing his part in playing a key role in the Rangers arsenal.
Beltre won't be going to the All-Star game this season, save for being a last-second injury replacement, but in the grand scheme of it all, that might be a good thing for Beltre and for the Texas Rangers. Beltre has been battling hamstring issues (for a third straight year) for much of the season, and having a few days off should do nothing but help that situation. Whereas many players would have seen a DL trip by this point, Beltre has been insistent that he can still play and be productive, and he's backed up that claim thus far.
There was a time when Beltre's contract with the Rangers, signed after the 2010 season, was heavily scrutinized. It was a high-risk proposition, and it drew comparisons to the type of deal the Rangers had once signed with Alex Rodriguez. Bud Selig attempted to make an example of the Rangers by admonishing them at the Winter meetings for signing Beltre to such a lucrative deal.
Beyond the obvious monetary risk involved, it also displaced the franchise player at the time, Michael Young, from his post at third base. Young had been exposed as a defensive liability in the 2010 playoffs and the Rangers felt they could improve by adding the best defensive third baseman the game had to offer. Young didn't agree, and as we all know, Young demanded a trade, there was much verbal sparring in the media, and the whole ordeal didn't look good.
Nonetheless, the fact is, Beltre has actually played well beyond his contract to this point, and if you can consider a $96 million man underpaid, Beltre could make that claim and have some power to back that up.
During his time with the Rangers to date, Adrian Beltre has amassed 14.80 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs (5.3 in 2011, 6.2 in 2012, and 3.3 thus far this season). If we look at the Fangraphs dollar values that are assigned to that kind of production total $68.4 million ($24 million in 2011, $28.1 million in 2012, and $16.3 million thus far in 2013). In other words, it would be expected to cost $68.4 million to sign that kind of guaranteed production on the free agent market. Through this season, Beltre will have made $45 million ($14 million in 2011, $15 million in 2012, and $16 million in 2013), meaning he's provided $23.4 million in excess value beyond his contract, and the 2013 season is barely half over.
If we assume Beltre finishes this season strong and ends up with a Fangraphs dollar value of $22 million, and we extrapolate a bit and assume that, with age regression and market inflation, Beltre, on the conservative end, could end up with a dollar value of around $55 million for the 2014-2016 seasons. If we add that $55 million for 2014-2016, a figure of $22 million for this season, and the $52.1 million from 2011-2012, we end up with a dollar figure of $129.1 million in value through the life of Adrian Beltre's contract with the Rangers. Considering the contract is for $96 million, he'll have outplayed his contract in excess by an amount of around $33.1 million. What was once considered a risky contract is already looking to possibly be a bargain for the Rangers, who have recently balked at spending big money on names like Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, and Prince Fielder. The risk the franchise did take in 2010, however, is looking to pay off in a huge way.
None of this even mentions that if Beltre continues down this path, not only will he be in the Hall of Fame discussion, there will be no discussion. Barring any sort of PED scandal or anything of the sort, Beltre will be a sure-fire lock to be voted in, and it will be because he played hard on both offense and defense. Oh, and have I mentioned that he enjoys playing the game?