Might the Mariners Still Trade Beltre?

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The Mariners' ability to trade free-agent-to-be Adrian Beltre by the end of the month is rife with complications. For starters, Beltre will not be coming back as quickly as expected from a busted nut. Secondly, the vast majority of teams in playoff contention who'd be in the market to rent him for a month or two are pretty stacked at the hot corner.

The Giants would have been a perfect partner for a Beltre trade -- until they instead made a move for Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko and evidently decided to stick it out with Pablo Sandoval (who's really more suited to 1B) at third for the duration of the season. After San Fran, the number of potential Beltre suitors is essentially reduced to three teams -- the White Sox, Twins, and Rockies -- who aren't even locks to make the postseason. In other words, if the M's decide to move the veteran third-sacker, they'd best be prepared to take nickels on the dollar. But a nickel's better than going broke, remember, as the M's are anything but guaranteed to tender Beltre an offer at season's end.

Colorado, which is in the wild-card driver's seat and stands an okay chance of catching the Dodgers in the NL West, currently starts Ian Stewart at third. Stewart's put up some decent power numbers (19 homers, 56 RBIs), but is only batting .227. And Beltre would be an upgrade defensively, as he would over just about any third baseman in the game. But Stewart's young and cheap, and a move for Beltre could be something of a confidence shatterer.

Minnesota's Joe Crede has similar stats (.229, 15, 48) as Stewart. But he's older, more expensive, and recently went down with a bum ankle. That said, it's debatable whether the 61-63 Twins have a legitimate shot at making a postseason run even if they should overcome the White Sox and Tigers in the mediocre AL Central -- so a move for Beltre seems pretty shaky even given Crede's mediocrity.

Which brings us to the most sensible Beltre suitor: the Chicago White Sox. The ChiSox, who are 2-1/2 games back of the Tigers for the divisional lead, are better positioned to spend recklessly (see: Rios, Alex) than either Colorado or Minnesota; have a contact-hitting third baseman, Gordon Beckham, who'd probably be better suited to second base; and a subpar player, Jayson Nix, holding down that position currently. But Beckham's never played second in the bigs, and to move the promising rookie there at this critical juncture would be a risky proposition, to put it midly.

In other words, the team likeliest to benefit from Beltre's services for the rest of his contract is the one he's on right now.

 
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