Glove love leads Beltre to Boston

Glove love leads Beltre to Boston

BOSTON -- The Red Sox officially signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre following a Thursday physical and introduced him at a Fenway Park news conference on Friday morning.

This marks the fourth free-agent-acquisition news conference Boston has held this winter, as Beltre follows shortstop Marco Scutaro, right-hander John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron as key Hot Stove additions by general manager Theo Epstein.

Known as an elite defender -- perhaps the best in the Majors at his position -- Beltre hopes to rebound from a subpar year offensively, one in which he was hindered by left shoulder woes. Beltre had bone spurs removed from his shoulder on June 30, 2009.

"I take pride in my defense, even though I would like to do more on the offensive side of the game," Beltre said. "I work hard on my defense. It's something I take pride, I work on it. It's nothing I want to brag about. It's part of my game, and a big part of my game."

Earlier this week, Beltre and the Red Sox agreed in principle on a one-year, $9 million contract that includes a 2011 option for $5 million -- though that amount will double if Beltre has 640 plate appearances in '10. The option also includes a $1 million buyout.

"It's true, I had many multiyear offers, but I made the decision to come here and take my chances with a team that has a legitimate chance to get to the World Series," Beltre said. "I've been in the big leagues for 11 years and have only been in the playoffs once. I like my chances. I like the organization and I like what's going on here. I think the team is built to win. It's a decision I made and I'm really happy about it."

In Beltre, the Red Sox have a third baseman who should light up their defensive highlight reel on a near nightly basis. And if he can have that rebound at the plate, Boston could have one of the bargains of the winter.

Although Beltre has never come close to the 48 homers he walloped for the 2004 Dodgers, he averaged 26 homers and 88 RBIs for the Mariners between 2006-08. Last season, Beltre hit .265 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 111 games. A pull hitter who should be well-suited for Fenway Park, Beltre is expected to at least open the season in the bottom third of Boston's batting order.

"I think Adrian's reputation is that he's one of best defenders in the game, period, let alone one of the best defensive third baseman," said Epstein. "He's got all the attributes you look for in a third baseman. He's got quickness, he's got great hands. His feet are tremendous. Great arm and very quick release. He has that signature play coming in on balls, which he does better than maybe anyone in the history of the game. He attacks the baseball. He's really a weapon defensively, and we're looking forward to having him help our run prevention.

"But as Adrian said, he's not just just a defender. He has the ability to be a very well-rounded player and, in fact, a leader on the team. We look forward to having him help our club win in all phases of the game this year."

The 30-year-old Beltre is a .270 career hitter with 250 homers and 906 RBIs. He will hold down the position that Mike Lowell has occupied for the Red Sox the past four years.

Lowell, entering the last season of a three-year contract, is expected to be traded by the end of Spring Training. That will give him sufficient time to recover from the minor right thumb surgery he had last week and prove to suitors that he is healthy. Lowell was nearly dealt to the Rangers in December for catching prospect Max Ramirez, but that trade was taken off the table by Texas when doctors recommended the surgery.

Prior to announcing the Beltre deal, the Red Sox acquired infielder-outfielder Bill Hall, a Minor League player to be named and cash for backup first baseman Casey Kotchman.

Much like Beltre, Hall struggled mightily at the plate in 2009, hitting .201 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 334 at-bats. He clocked a career-high 35 homers in 2006, followed by 14 in '07 and 15 in '08.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.