Free agency began yesterday, and we heard from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated that the Pittsburgh Pirates were aggressive for players early. Heyman elaborates on that in his rundown of free agency bargains, noting that the Pirates are showing interest in some surprising free agent prizes, naming Adrian Beltre:
The Pirates, by the way, seem active in early free agent calls. They are believed to be showing interest in some surprising free agent prizes such as Beltre. Whether this is because they are being encouraged to spend more by MLB isn’t known.
I don’t see the Pirates landing Beltre at all. The Boston Red Sox will be bidding to retain his services, and the Los Angeles Angels are also in on the bidding. MLBTR named Beltre the #3 free agent on the market, and had a feature on his free agent stock, predicting a four year, $50 M contract. That’s not out of the Pirates’ price range, as they do have money to spend. I just don’t see them out-bidding the Red Sox or Angels, and I don’t see Beltre coming to Pittsburgh if the prices are similar.
The rumor is interesting when you think of the Pedro Alvarez perspective. Adding Beltre would definitely move Alvarez to first base, which improves the infield defense a great deal. Charlie at Bucs Dugout had two looks at why the Pirates need to improve their defense, which would help extreme ground ball pitchers like Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, if he’s still around. As I said, I don’t see the Pirates landing Beltre, but I do take from this that they may not be sold on leaving Alvarez at third base, assuming they could get an upgrade at the position.
Two other points of interest. Beltre is a Type A free agent, which means the Pirates would lose their second round pick if they signed him (and that could be a top 50 pick). That wouldn’t be bad if he’s signed to a long enough deal, as a guy like Beltre can upgrade both the offense and defense. This is one of the rare occasions where I’d agree with signing a Type A free agent, but again, I don’t see it happening. Also, Heyman speculates on whether the Pirates could be pressured to spend. MLB and the MLBPA have previously signed off on the Pirates’ plan, noting that they expect the team to spend when the time is right. The exact time frame of “when the time is right” is unknown, so the pressure angle could be a possibility, but for now just looks like speculation to explain the surprising rumor that the Pirates are active in the free agent market.