The Debate: Beltre vs. Feliz – Phillies Nation
Analysis

The Debate: Beltre vs. Feliz

You’ve digested the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes.  You’ve reflected on what it means to be thankful over this long weekend.  Now, its time to get back to what’s important; and that’s the free agent market the Phillies have in front of them.

Last week, Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News talked about how wonderful it would be to have Chone Figgins at the top of the order.  A few things make that relatively unlikely.

First, he is hoping to secure a deal in the $10-12 million per year range, which takes the Phils out of it from a financial standpoint.  Figgins will be 32-years old at the start of the 2010 season, meaning a four-or-five-year contract will take him into an age bracket that normally means a downhill slide in production.  On top of that, whether or not you believe that Jimmy Rollins is a leadoff man means very little. Because Charlie Manuel does, it’s unlikely he would take J-Roll out of that position for Figgins.  That makes a slap-hitting, seventh hitter pretty expensive at those figures.

All of those variables put Figgins deep on the backburner, unless for some unknown reason he changes his price tag.

The hotly debated name out there besides Figgins continues to be Adrian Beltre.  If we are tossing Figgins to the side, Beltre’s name, to me, stands out more than Placido Polanco (not a third baseman by trade), Mark Derosa (super-utility man, but can he play 3B everyday?), or Miguel Tejada (aging, not a 3B, but would switch positions here).

Many are wondering if he is an upgrade at all over Pedro Feliz – and I say yes.  Defensively, Feliz was one of the top third basemen at his position, until you delve deeper into the numbers.  Using John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, you’ll notice that Feliz was a plus-5 this season.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Plus/Minus stat, it represents the number of plays the player made above/below the number that an average fielder would make, according to the video scouts at Baseball Info Solutions.

Feliz’s plus-5 puts him just above average, however, two of the top three defenders at the hot corner are Figgins, with a ridiculous plus-40 – best in the majors – and Beltre, with a plus-27, ranking him third in baseball.  Feliz saved just five runs at his position, while 30 were saved by Figgins, and 21 by Beltre.  With the glove, it turns out Feliz is not nearly on par with the others.  There’s no denying his defense is solid, but he’s getting up there in age and was clearly aided by having Jimmy Rollins to his left.  But again, lets take Figgins out of the equation since he seems to be a long shot.

Offensively, many point to Pedro Feliz and his 82 RBI, his .336 average with runners in scoring position and his clutch hits throughout the season.  Beltre, on the other hand, was serviceable in those statistics as well.  The Mariners third baseman hit .284 with RISP, and did knock in 44 runs in just 111 games as he dealt with injuries.

Feliz’s stats must be looked at in the context of the lineup he was a part of.  The Phillies managed 820 runs in the regular season in 2009, while the Mariners plated just 640, the worst in the American League.  Feliz was the benefactor of hitting behind Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez in the most feared lineup in the NL.  Beltre was surrounded by the likes of  an elderly Ken Griffey Jr., Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez, and Yuniesky Betancourt.  Not exactly murderers row.

Because Beltre was the focal point of the Seattle offense, he very rarely was given anything good to hit with those names around him.  Plug him into the Phillies offense in the seven spot, and you have yourself a very solid piece at the bottom of the order.

Looking at Beltre’s peripheral stats, he does strikeout a bit too much compared to Feliz, fanning 74 times in 449 at-bats.  Pedro whiffed 68 times in 131 more AB’s.

Contractually, there might be some reason for the Phillies to pause. The infamous Scott Boras represents Beltre and will undoubtedly attempt to suck the most cash he can out of any team willing to dole it out.  The free agent market has yet to play out in the early going, so there is no gauge as to what Beltre will seek. If it’s a three-year deal in the $6 million range per season, it seems worth the chance on an excellent defensive corner infielder that is only 31.  Ruben Amaro appears to be calmly sitting back, allowing the market to breathe in it’s early stages.

The debate will continue throughout the winter with so many people having differing opinions on who should be the new starting third baseman in Philadelphia.  Adrian Beltre is my favorite to be the man, but who are you hoping for to take over for Pedro Feliz?

Pat Gallen can be reached via email at Pat@Philliesnation.com

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