I am a great admirer of Boston Red Sox 3B Adrian Beltre. It’s not because I think he is such a great guy or that he is such a fantastic fielder. I admire Beltre because of his uncanny ability to have career years in his free agent year.

Before he became a free agent in 2005, his 2004 season was off the charts. His season was so good, I gave the term “Adrian Beltre Year” to anyone who had a monster year entering free agency.


Pena is having a down year in 2010

In 2010, Beltre is at it again. He was hitting .322 with 26 HR’s going into last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the only person I can think of to have two “Adrian Beltre Years.” His awesome year this year will most likely earn him a solid contract in the winter.

The opposite of Beltre has been Rays’ 1B Carlos Pena.

Like Beltre, Pena is entering his free agent year, but unlike Beltre, Pena is not having his best season. As a matter of fact, Pena has continued his steady decline ever since having his breakout year with the then Devil Rays in 2007.

Going into last night’s game, Pena was in an 0-for-21 slump, which has dropped his average to .203 on the season. It’s the fourth year in a row that his average has dipped. His OBP has dipped to .331 this year, which again represents a four year decline.

Now of course one might say that since his average is declining, it’s only natural for his OBP to decline as well. While that does make some sense, it’s not necessarily true. Pena isn’t walking as much as he used to. His 14.9 BB percentage is down from last year and his 3.97 pitches per plate appearance is the lowest since 2006 when he was a ham n’ egger with the Red Sox.

When the season starts next year, Pena will be 33-years-old and he really needed to have a monster 2010 to earn a nice payday in 2011 and beyond. Instead, his 1.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) puts at a reserve level player.

With a number of free agent to be first basemen having significantly better seasons than Pena — Paul Konerko, Aubrey Huff, and Adam Dunn to name a few — his options might be limited on the free agent market. I will venture to say Pena will return to the Rays on a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2012.

Look for the contract to be in the $6 to $8 million range. I can’t see the Rays giving him the $10 million he made this year.

If Pena was having a great year, he would have earned himself a multi-year deal this winter. Instead, he is having a down year, which makes him the anti-Adrian Beltre.

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