With free agency fastly approaching, there are many difficult decisions facing Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox this offseason.
The most obvious one: Whether or not to bring back third baseman Adrian Beltre.
It is a pretty sure thing to say that the Red Sox will likely bring back David Ortiz, and either Beltre or catcher Victor Martinez. All three of their contracts expire this offseason.
The Red Sox signed Beltre, 31, last offseason to a one-year, $9 million contract, which includes a $10 million player option. And now, all signs point to Beltre declining the player option and jumping into the free agent waters.
With the year he has had, he and agent Scott Boras may be looking in the neighborhood of a three- to five-year-deal and about $12 million to $15 million per year. Although he may cost more to bring back than Victor Martinez, he's well worth the money.
In his only year in Boston, Beltre has managed to put up superb numbers: .321/.365/.553, to go along with 28 home runs and a 141 OPS+.
In 2010, Beltre held the team's highest batting average, slugging percentage, and was tied for first in RBI. If the Sox were to let Beltre leave, they would be missing arguably their best consistent offensive option on an 89-win team.
Despite having declining numbers since his amazing 2004 season with the Dodgers, Beltre is well worth the risk for a multi-year deal.
After departing for Seattle in 2005, Beltre was forced to hit in pitcher friendly Safeco Field in Seattle, which turned most of his home runs and doubles into outs (which explains the decline in offensive categories). Now that Beltre is hitting in Fenway Park, he can turn most of those Safeco-outs into wall-ball Fenway singles/doubles.
From what I have seen this season, Beltre has found a ballpark he can play 81 games in and can have All-Star production in.
Another component of Beltre's game that proved valuable was his gold glove defense.
Although he ranked near the top of the amount of errors committed on the team, Beltre showed a clear upgrade over Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis at third base.
Beltre provides defensive range at third base that you don't see out of many other players, especially in the 2010 free agent class.
Many believe that Beltre should be the one to go, as Terry Francona can just switch Kevin Youkilis from first to third and trade for Adrian Gonzalez to play first base. But because of Youkilis' lack of range and extraordinary defense at first, this move would limit Youkilis' true ability as a complete, and the fact that Marco Scutaro isn't Dustin Pedrioia.
Victor Martinez is a very valuable part of the lineup, but doesn't play his position well (I lost count on how many base runners he missed throwing out by three miles).
Adrian Beltre is a rare gem that the Red Sox should lock up as he truly is a complete player, both as an offensive threat and a defensive specialist.
And since when is overpaying for top players strange to Theo Epstein?