Back in 2005, the Mariners decided that they were going to spend more money on free agents than they had at any point in the history of the team. Richie Sexson signed a deal that was 4/50 and Adrian Beltre signed one that was just a bit bigger at 5/64. It was the most they had spent on a hitter to date.
Adrian Beltre was coming off an incredible year with the Dodgers after hitting 48 home runs and batting .334, finishing second in MVP voting, winning the Silver Slugger, and he brought an incredible arm and great glove at third base. It seemed like a great signing for the Mariners, and a good sign of things to come.
When it comes down to it… Was Adrian Beltre worth it for the Mariners?
Depending on if you are looking at Fangraphs or SB Nation, you can find differing values when it comes to measuring what a win is worth. I’m just going to take the average and use that for my analysis of Adrian Beltre’s contract.
For those who aren’t that familiar with it, it essentially comes down to this. Each year, you can look at the money being spent and get a rough estimate of what a win is worth. If that estimate is $5 million equals a win, then a 3.0 WAR player would be worth $15 million.
There’s a lot more that goes into it, but that’s the baseline. Find out what a win is worth, look at a player’s WAR, and you can get a decent idea of what kind of win value they gave to their team for the price they were paid. You can estimate year-by-year with updated numbers, but you don’t have those when a Free Agent signs. For simplicity’s sake, I like looking at the deal they sign and using that year’s value. That’s the current market, so it makes sense.
Anyway, back to Adrian Beltre. In 2005, the average of the two numbers I mentioned earlier comes out to about $3.65 million per win. Beltre signed a 5/64 deal, meaning that he would need to provide about 17.5 WAR over his five years to be an average signing or 3.5 WAR per year.
It can be tough to answer if you’re trying to go off a combination of memory and offensive numbers. We all wanted to see the big bat play in Seattle and were hoping for some 30 homer seasons from Beltre. He still hit for power well, going 18-25-26-25, before finishing with just eight in his final season.
For comparison’s sake, he did play the worst in Seattle out of any stop that he had in his career. In virtually every offensive metric, it was below average for Beltre compared to what the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rangers got from him. The only positive was steals, as he went an impressive 49 for 61.
However, we do need to take defense into account. He won two gold gloves and probably should’ve won more. He played better defense than Eric Chavez and Evan Longoria, the guys who won in 05/06 and 09. He likely would’ve faired better with modern analytics, as his higher error count hurt him then, as opposed to looking at his increased range and playmaking over those two.
Baseball Reference favors Beltre a bit more than Fangraphs, by an average of about 1.0 WAR per season. Take the average, and you get 18.65 WAR over his time in Seattle. For those old enough to remember (uggh, I don’t like saying that), it totally makes sense. Beltre wasn’t a powerhouse or massive threat like we wanted. What he was though, was someone who seemed to play at right about the contract the Mariners gave him.
Was Adrian Beltre worth his contract? Would you sign it in retrospect knowing what you were going to get from him? I think the answer to both of those, both as a fan and from looking at the data, is yes. Adrian Beltre was worth it for the Mariners. It makes me happy because he was a joy to watch. Just don’t touch his head.