Adrián Beltré announced his retirement recently, putting an end to a race that will surely take him to the Hall of Fame of the Big Leagues.
Beltré built his excellent resume throughout 21 seasons in the Major, but probably his two best campaigns (2004 and 2010) had something in common. Both were in the last year of their contracts, just before Beltré reached the free agency.
The idea that players always raise their level in that situation, using a possible millionaire contract as a motivation, is far from reality. It is usually a simple coincidence or the reflection of the normal ascent of a pelotero.
But there is an exceptional history of great seasons prior to the free agency. These are the best.
1. Alex Rodríguez, Mariners of 2000
Numbers: .316 / .420 / .606 (163 OPS +), 41 home runs
Contract: 10 years, US $ 252 million with the Rangers
A-Rod turned 25 years old in the middle of the 2000 season, in which he finished with more than 10 of WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. The result was a record contract that continues among the biggest in history.
2. Barry Bonds, Pirates of 1992
Numbers: .311 / .456 / .624 (204 OPS +), 39 stolen bases
Contract: Six years, US $ 43.75 million with the Giants
Bonds entered the market after its second season of 30-30 (robbed-home run bases) and its second prize as the National League's Most Valuable Player in three years, in addition to its third Gold Glove in line. He was even better in his first year in the Bay, adding another prize to JMV.
3. Adrián Beltré, Dodgers of 2004
Numbers: .334 / .388 / .629 (163 OPS +), 48 home runs
Contract: Five years, US $ 64 million with the Mariners
Only Bonds prevented Beltre from being the JMV of the Old Circuit, since the then 25-year-old player exploded at the perfect time. Beltré's 9.6 WAR remains the best for a third base from Mike Schmidt in 1974.
4. Alex Rodríguez, Yankees of 2007
Numbers: .314 / .422 / .645 (176 OPS +), 54 homers
Contract: 10 years, US $ 275 million with the Yankees
A-Rod broke its own record in terms of value in dollars after leaving its original contract. He came to win his third prize as JMV in the American League in five years and to lead the Young Circuit in scoring, home runs, pushing, slugging and PAHO.
5. Zack Greinke, Dodgers of 2015
Numbers: 19-3, 1.66 EFE (222 ERA +)
Contract: Six years, US $ 206.5 million with the D-backs
The effectiveness of the law was the best for a starter from Greg Maddux in 1995, and spun 45.2 innings in white between June and July, the longest since the 59th record of Orel Hershiser in 1988.
Andrew Simon MLB.com