Clients of super-agent Scott Boras do not always have a reputation for being the most reasonable. Adrian Beltre is different. Entering his age-37 season, Beltre is in the final year of his six-year, $96 million contract with the Texas Ranges. Despite his advancing age, Beltre remains extremely productive, and wishes to be paid as such.
Beltre is reportedly seeking a three-year extension with the Rangers, which would take him through age 40. Having earned $16 million per year in his most recent contract, Beltre is said to be seeking at least $19 million in annual value to match the wildly-underachieving Pablo Sandoval. While it’s never a great negotiating tactic to point to another player’s terrible contract and expect a team to match it, Beltre’s demands seem very reasonable.
The four-time All-Star did begin showing some signs of slowing last season. He batted below .300 for the first time in four seasons, and suffered a drop in OPS of close to 100 points. However, if a slightly down year still results in 5.8 WAR, how much do the Rangers have to complain about with Beltre? Not much.
Beltre is a physical specimen with freakish athletic ability. Even as he enters his 19th season in the league, he still moves like a young man at third base. More importantly, he is the veteran player who still relates and relishes in having fun with young teammates like Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Delino Deshields, and eventually Joey Gallo and hopefully Jurickson Profar. Beltre has meant almost as much to the Rangers for his leadership and intangibles as his .309/.358/.514 line.
Unlike Jose Bautista, a 35-year-old seeking an extension of more than five years and $150 million with the suddenly fiscally-conservative Toronto Blue Jays, Beltre is being extremely reasonable in his demands of the Rangers. Three years and $20 million is very fair for a five-plus WAR player, something Beltre has been in each of his five seasons in Texas. If Beltre can be just a 2.5-WAR player from 2017 to 2019, he can still more than justify an annual salary of $20 million. Odds are, he will easily surpass 2.5 WAR as he plays out his Hall of Fame career.
The Rangers are in a tricky spot with Adrian Beltre. He has more than earned a small raise from his annual salary of $16 million, but the current trends in roster management scoff at paying players approaching age 40 for their past performance. Dealing with a franchise icon complicates things. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the Rangers’ front office wants their guy to play out the final three years of his career in another uniform before eventually donning a Rangers cap on his plaque in Cooperstown.
Looking at a few other stars approaching age 40, Beltre’s initial asking price is fair. John Lackey signed for $16 million a year for his age-37 and agge-38 seasons, but does not have the same elite track record as Beltre. David Ortiz will earn $16 million in his final season at the age of 40. Because he does not play the field, Ortiz has not come close to equaling Beltre in the WAR department.
Three years and $60 million is a very reasonable starting point for extension talks between the Texas Rangers and Adrian Beltre. For the player, one would have to assume that the years rather than the annual salary are the biggest sticking point. Getting a guaranteed third year is likely what Beltre needs more than being paid the same as Pablo Sandoval. The Rangers may not want to go to all the way to three years without an escape button. That’s a risk they should be willing to take with a player who shows no signs of slowing down even as he ages.
If both sides are willing to make concessions, there is no reason Beltre and the Rangers have to put themselves in an ugly staring contest like the one Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays are now beginning in earnest. Give Beltre the three-year deal he seeks, keep his salary manageable, but throw in escalators and performance-based bonuses. A win-win for both sides, and it’s all made possible by a level-headed veteran coming to the table with reasonable expectations.