The story is the same every year at one of those baseball owners meetings, where baseball boss Bud Selig will routinely take to task a club that handed out the dumbest contract of the winter.After the 2010 season, the expected recipient of Seligs scorn was surely going to be the Washington Nationals for handing outfielder Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal.Selig, in front of representatives from all 30 teams, instead admonished your Texas Rangers for giving third baseman Adrian Beltre a six-year, $96 million deal.There was a time when he was considered a massive risk.Here we are two-plus years later, and there may not be a better player on this team since Beltre arrived. From batting average to doubles to home runs to RBIs, every number glitters with a Vegas-like shine. It was Beltre who hit the the go-ahead home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series in the seventh inning that should have you know the rest.On Monday, he was named the American League player of the week.Plenty of accolades for a player who was once thought to be handed the Dumbest Contract after the 2010 season.Beltres signing is a good reminder to the professional basketball team in Dallas that if you want players, you better be willing to pay and accept the buyer-beware risk that comes with anybody you did not draft and develop.In free agency, youre either overpaying or getting bottom-of-the-roster filler.You may get lucky once but, if you want to build your team through free agency instead of the draft, you may as well expect to be robbed. The better players always have leverage.If you want a good free agent, you have to pay him like hes a great free agent and simply pray it doesnt kill your team. Beltre has been a major score and a reason why the team had no problem saying goodbye to Josh Hamilton.Meanwhile, 20 miles to the east of the Ballpark, the Mavs are scrambling to assemble what now must be a Plan Z after the three most coveted free agents of the past two summers Deron Williams, Chris Paul and now Dwight Howard each said no.The Mavs are desperate for a big man, which puts Mavs owner Mark Cuban dealing with the level of free agency he hates. He always wants a steal, but in this case no such thing exists.Andrew Bynum has bad knees and a serious attitude, and he refuses to work out for teams even though he did not play last season because of injury. Doesnt matter. Someone is going to pay him because he is an athletic 7-footer who can protect the rim and score with his back to the basket. He is also 25.With Howard in Houston and your Mavs in desperate need of a center, it would be stupid not to consider Bynum. When hes right, which is a 50-50 proposition, Bynum is in Dwights category.Because of Bynums track record, Cuban is going to want some uber-protected contract that he can easily flush if it breaks bad.Cuban landed the deal of the century when he had Tyson Chandler on a one-year deal for the 2010-11 season. The following off-season, after Chandler had demonstrated he could play a full season and was the second biggest reason the team won a title, Cuban offered a front-loaded, protected two-year deal in case Chandlers injury history caught up with him.Chandler easily found a bigger offer and has flourished with the New York Knicks. He has justified the contract even if injuries finally catch him.Cubans deal with Chandler cant be expected to be found again, certainly not with a guy like Bynum.Bynum is going to squeeze teams as much as he can because he knows there are not many people on this earth who can do what he does. How many 7-foot men on this earth are actually any good at basketball? Five, six?By comparison, giving Beltre a monster deal looked like the sure thing compared to an NBA player who only once in his career has played a full 82-game season.We forget now, but the Rangers took a major risk when they handed Beltre a six-year deal worth $96 million. We forget because Beltre has been such a hit.If Cuban wants a real center and Andrew Bynum is the next-best option he is going to have to take a similar risk and deal with the consequences.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof