Tidbits started floating around yesterday that to some extent the Angels were out of the running for Adrian Beltre. Those rumors coalesced as the day wore on and the story appears to be that Boras and Beltre have rejected the Angels latest offer and that negotiations are at a standstill currently, but not off entirely.
This was a bit of a surprise since as the free agent market has settled it appeared an almost lock that Beltre would end up in Anaheim. They are one of the few remaining teams with adequate payroll room and they have a definite need at third base where Maicer Izturis is better suited as an all around backup infielder. The Angels also lack a top tier 3B in their near term minor league pipeline and a rough guess of their projected win totals have Anaheim sitting a few wins behind the Texas Rangers. In short, they have more means, more motive and more opportunity than any other team.
But if not Anaheim then who else? I looked at each team’s current depth chart, payroll room and upper level minor leagues to suss out any other fits for Beltre. At best, there’s a couple partial fits. Houston and Cleveland both have payroll room and third base is only slightly filled with a young talent, but both teams are in rebuild mode and seem highly unlikely to enter a top tier free agent sweepstakes. The Twins could be a fit if they give up on Danny Valencia and upped payroll. Moreover, the Yankees could always do something insane like move Alex Rodriguez to DH and slide Beltre in at third base after missing so many other top players this winter.
Those teams barely qualify as fits, but there are more plausible options. The Athletics were rumored to be in on Beltre before though it’s not exactly clear why as they have Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base currently and they’ll need the payroll room in the near future with their young talent getting more expensive. Also in the west, the Rangers have also mostly whiffed this winter and though Michael Young sits at third, the DH slot is there and Young is certainly not a premier defender. The Rangers are nearly as in need of Beltre as the Angels are –and that creates the added incentive for both teams of acquiring Beltre to keep him away from the other—but Michael Young could be an obstacle.
In the National League, the best fit comes from the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a need at third base and nobody close to the Majors set to fill it for the long haul. They also have just watched Milwaukee nab Zack Greinke and lost the division to the Reds in 2010. The hindrance for them is cash. Albert Pujols needs to be re-signed soon and they’re already up against their 2010 payroll.
The Angels have to be the overwhelming favorite to end up with Adrian Beltre, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Oakland, Texas or St. Louis make a genuine effort.