December 7, 2008

Twins moving in on Adrian Beltre

The Twins and Mariners will look to hammer out a deal at the Winter Meetings

Yesterday, I mentioned a trade that I would be comfortable doing to acquire Adrian Beltre from the Seattle Mariners. The feel I got is that readers believed it's pretty steep for just one year of Beltre. In my proposed deal, pitchers Glen Perkins and Tyler Robertson would be going to the Mariners along with outfielder Jason Pridie.

Today the Seattle Times beat writer, Geoff Baker believes that the Mariners could target Michael Cuddyer and it doesn't sound like it would really take a lot more than that to land the highly touted third baseman. Cuddyer likely would be the Mariners Designated Hitter, however the Seattle Times post also mentions that he could be an option at third base for the Mariners.

The Twins used Cuddyer as a third baseman in 2005, but didn't really adjust to the position well. Cuddyer came through the Twins system playing just about every position imaginable, including third base on a fairly regular basis. The Twins gave Cuddyer somewhat of a short leash in '05 and let him finish off the season in right field after he proved to be a liability at the hot corner. The fact that the Mariners would even consider him as a third baseman is somewhat of a shock to me, but it could just be this writers opinion and not the opinion he got from someone inside the organization.

People should know by now about my opinion on trading for Beltre. For over a year now, I've been calling for the Twins to trade for him. And obviously over the last few months, his name has been at the top of my list for available third basemen. Beltre is a power-hitting, slick-fielding third baseman but is in the last year of a five-year, $65 million deal that he signed after his monster 2004 season as a 25-year-old in which he hit 48 home runs with 121 RBI and an OPS+ of 163 with the Dodgers. He finished second in MVP voting that year to only Barry Bonds.

Beltre would be a perfect fit either between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, before Mauer, or after Morneau. He is a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter who would benefit greatly with great hitters like Mauer and Morneau around him. The Twins have been looking for a third baseman who hits for power while playing good defense for a while now, and they finally may have that guy within reach of having.

Unfortunately, Beltre's agent is none other than Scott Boras who is every teams worst nightmare, especially the Twins. Boras is known for encouraging his clients to test the free agency market to try and receive the largest salary so that his commission is as large as possible. He really doesn't care about his clients, he really only cares about cashing a fat check and hoping that his clients perform well so that he can cash an even bigger check in their next negotiations. It's the work of a client, that's for sure. Unfortunately with Beltre, the Twins could be looking for a long-term solution at third base which would mean that signing Beltre to a long-term deal could be a problem. However the general consensus is that many think the Twins are just looking for a short-term fix until Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia or another player within the system is ready to take over the position come 2010.

I personally would like to see the Twins sign him to a 3-year, $36 million deal which I think Beltre could go for. He'd be 33-years-old at the end of that deal, meaning that he'd be looking for one more deal for about the same length. However most players at the age of 30 would like to be signing their last long-term deal so that they are close to the end of their careers by the end of the deal. There's no telling what Beltre's intentions are and really it's anyone's guess at this point.

I just hope that the Twins at the very least would look into signing him long-term just from the standpoint that the Twins haven't had a good third base prospect come through the system in a while and although we have two guys that the team is very fond of, they are in no way "sure things" at this point. Hughes is coming off of a breakout season hitting .309/.369/.524 with 18 home runs (44 total XBH's) between 285 AB's in Double-A New Britain and 106 AB's in Triple-A Rochester. The problem is that he is not great defensively at third base, and it's unknown if he'll be able to handle third base on a regular basis. He has played the majority of his time in the Twins system as a second baseman, however he's played third base enough to give this team a good enough feel as to whether or not he'll be able to handle the job. He will probably play most of his time next season at third base, however if Danny Valencia is promoted early (which he should be), Hughes may have to move to second base or the outfield which are the other two positions he's mostly familiar with.

Beltre for Cuddyer and Boof Bonser or Philip Humber in my mind could be a good deal for both teams. The Mariners are getting at least two years of Cuddyer and at least four more years of Bonser. Obviously Bonser is not the greatest pitcher in the world, however he does have potential and with no room in the rotation, the Twins may try and look to trade him or Humber who is also out of options and needs a spot on the 25-man roster. The ramblings everyone's hearing is that the Twins would like to try converting Bonser into a setup man, however if his 5.88 ERA last year as a reliever is any indicator, he has a lot of work to do. Humber really gave the organization optimism over his last 8 starts posting a 6-1 win mark and 2.60 ERA with a 51/11 (4.64) strikeout to walk ratio.

So a revised trade on my part, would Cuddyer along with Bonser be a good deal? Personally, I like that trade more due to the fact that it would be nice to be able to keep all of the starters we had last year and just continue to grow as a unit. It'd also be nice to be able to keep one of our best pitching prospects in the system as well as a good defensive fourth outfielder as well.

If the Twins were to make a trade for Beltre, I fully anticipate Nick Punto being back with the team as the Twins starting shortstop. As much as I would love to acquire Jason Donald from the Phillies, I just think that the Twins (especially Ron Gardenhire) are just more comfortable with Punto than they would be with any other player coming in.

One thing is for sure, the Twins have a lot to get done at the Winter Meetings.