By Sean McAdam
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein noted Tuesday that deals in baseball don't happen in a vacuum and that what one team does (or offers) can impact every other.
It's basic supply and demand.
Then, as if on cue, one deal and one reported offer hit home for the Red Sox Wednesday.
First, the Detroit Tigers signed set-up reliever Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, 16.5 million deal, seemingly setting the bar high for the crowd of bullpen candidates the Red Sox have been eying.
After Benoit's deal, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and others will be looking for more than they might have initially.
That likely means that the Sox will wait a bit, since Benoit's deal is likely to up the asking price for relievers in the same category.
''Every signing that comes up that's probably higher than anticipated,'' said Epstein, ''just means most clubs . . . will wait.''
Secondly, ESPNDeportes reported that the Oakland A's offered free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre a five-year, 65 million deal. Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, continued to tell some here that Beltre might eventually land a five-year, 85 million deal.
Oakland's emergence as a major player in the Beltre Sweepstakes should not come as a surprise. Last year, the A's offered Beltre more than the Red Sox -- reportedly a three-year deal worth approximately 30 million -- but Beltre ultimately chose the Sox over the A's in an effort to rebuild his value.
Also, general manager Billy Beane has lots of money coming off the books this winter, with deals for Eric Chavez, Ben Sheets and others freeing up about 30 million.
Beltre, who lives on the West Coast in the offseason and played his first 11 years in the big leagues there (first Los Angeles, then Seattle), would reportedly like to play closer to home.
But Oakland-Alameda County Stadium is one of the worst hitter's ballparks in the majors and the atmosphere is probably the worst in the American League. Also, though the A's boast a promising young pitching staff, their prospects for winning the division and leapfrogging over both Texas -- the defending A.L. champs -- and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- intent on improving by making at least one big splash in free agency -- would seem weak.
It's highly unlikely the Red Sox would go to five years for Beltre, who has been inconsistent over his career. Moreover, the way the long-term deal given to Mike Lowell sputtered over the final year-and-a-half will give them additional pause. Lowell was 33 when he signed that deal following the 2007 season; Beltre will turn 32 next spring.
If Beltre wants a five-year deal and is intent on playing for a West Coast team, it's hard to see where he might find other offers. The Angels,who might otherwise make some sense, are said to be entirely focused on outfielder Carl Crawford and it's doubtful they would be willing to give two deals of five years (or in Crawford's case, longer) in the same offseason.
The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers can't afford Beltre, and the San Francisco Giants want to get Pablo Sandoval back in shape to man third base.
That leaves only Seattle, and it's unlikely that Beltre or the Mariners would want to renew a relationship that worked for neither over five seasons.
Meanwhile, although a more likely scenario should the Sox need to replace Beltre at third would be to move Kevin Youkilis back there and find a first baseman elsewhere, Epstein opened the door to the possibility of Jed Lowrie taking over at third.
"He's a really good third baseman,'' Epstein said of Lowrie. "I think he's better at third than he is at second. He's got tremendous range. He looks natural over there and his arm really plays well at third. He makes all the plays at the limits of his range, maybe more so than he does in the middle of the infield at shortstop or second base.
"Again, Beltre is our first choice at third. Youkilis is a solid option if there's a first baseman that fits for us and then Lowrie falls into the category we discussed Tuesday -- one of the not fully-proven younger players who really like and can build value and we're going to count on one position or another moving forward.''