Boston Red Sox all-time best free agent signings

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Adrian Beltre

Adrian Beltre rode a monster 2004 season with the Dodgers to a lucrative contract with the Seattle Mariners, but a move to one of the game’s most pitcher-friendly parks put a damper on the power that got him paid big bucks to begin with. His home run total fell from 48 to 19 in his first year in Seattle, while his batting average and RBI totals plummeted as well. When Beltre hit the free agent market again after the 2009 season he knew he could’t command the same type of money after being labeled a bust, so he went out seeking a one-year “prove it” deal to restore his value.

He found that deal with the Red Sox, who signed him to a 1-year, $9 million deal for the 2010 season. Beltre’s plan worked perfectly, as the move to Fenway woke up his bat and reminded the league that he is among the best third basemen in the league. He hit .321 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a league-leading 49 doubles in his only season with the Red Sox. Beltre made his first career All-Star appearance that season, winning a Silver Slugger and finishing 9th in MVP voting.

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Beltre made a lot of fans in Boston for what he produced in his bounce back campaign, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in town. The Red Sox were enamored with San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and moved quickly to assemble a package of prospects to trade for him. The front office wasn’t willing to invest heavily in both corner infielders, especially since they still had fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis on the roster, so they essentially picked Gonzalez over Beltre.

After the Red Sox let him walk away, Beltre signed a 6-year, $96 million deal to join the Rangers. At the time it seamed reasonable to invest in the younger Gonzalez, yet here we are today with the 36-year old Beltre entering the final year of his deal and still putting up All-Star caliber numbers. Meanwhile, Gonzalez lasted only a year and a half in Boston before being shipped to the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade that cleared a quarter of a billion dollars in salary from the Red Sox payroll.

Third base has been a bit of a black hole since Beltre left, culminating in the Red Sox overpaying Pablo Sandoval to fill the position in 2015 in what is quickly becoming one of the worst free agent deals in franchise history. Perhaps they would have been better off keeping Beltre after all.

Next: Koji Uehara