Apparently I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping up with this blog in recent months. Looking down the list here, I guess it’s been over six months since I posted at all, and around ten months since my last post of any substance about the Rangers.
I suppose it’s time to get back on the horse, so to speak. And with that, I’ll jump right into talking about the Texas-sized elephant in the room: Adrian Beltre.
Adrian Beltre is my favorite Texas Ranger to wear the uniform. That spot once belonged to Pudge, but the way Beltre has maintained a high level of play despite his advancing age is enviable to me. He plays hard, has fun, and has managed to remain relevant despite age -- and a plethora of leg injuries turning his legs into spaghetti -- sapping most of his athleticism.
Beltre will be 39 years old on April 7. In 389 plate appearances in 2017, Beltre still put up an fWAR of 3.1, and ZiPS projects him to regress slightly in 2018 with 430 plate appearances and a 2.7 fWAR. If that turns out to be the case, it’s not a bad place to be when you’re an infielder knocking on the door of age 40.
If somehow Beltre manages to keep his legs mostly intact for a full season, you’re talking about a game-changing player perhaps putting up an All-Star kind of season. That is, the kind of player, on an average to below-average team that is more valuable as a trade asset than he is to the end-product on the field in 2018.
It pains me to even think it, let alone say it, but the more I think about it, the more I believe Adrian Beltre is going to get traded in 2018.
He’s long made it known that at this stage of his career he’d like to win. His comments earlier in the offseason about being willing to defer some of his money to help the team sign free agents struck me not so much as a guy making his intentions known for the first time, but rather sending a message to his organization as if to say, “Hey, you say you want to win, so let’s get out there and make some noise.”
Unless you’re counting the signing of Tim Lincecum as noise, the beat never really dropped, and while the front office will publicly say they’re expecting the Texas Rangers to compete in 2018, they’ve done almost nothing to actually indicate that this is anything more than a season to re-tool and assess some younger players. Baseball being what it is, they could shock us all. Maybe Joey Gallo takes another step forward. Maybe Rougned Odor the transmogrification of Rougned Odor into one of the best 2nd basemen in the game happens as many expected only a season ago. Maybe Nomar Mazara puts his name in the All-Star conversation. And perhaps Jurickson Profar and Willie Calhoun give this team something of value.
But really, if we’re being honest, even if all of those things happen… the Astros are still the king of the AL West. The Rangers likely don’t have the pitching to get it done, and even if the offense is above-average, run prevention will be the achilles heel. In addition to hoping all of the aforementioned players break the right way, you’re still somehow hoping that Cole Hamels turns back the clock three years, Matt Moore reverts to the kind of pitcher he was before Tommy John surgery, and one or two other starters step up and provide some added stability.
Again, maybe those things all happen. I just don’t find it very likely. And that leads me to believe Adrian Beltre will be traded.
I know, I don’t want to see him in Yankees uniform (just guessing) anymore than next guy. And yet, it all makes too much sense. Joey Gallo will at least start the season at first base. The Rangers say that’s his position, but he’s naturally a third baseman -- and likely more valuable there due to his athleticism -- and could slide over in the event of Beltre being traded.
Ronald Guzman has mostly proved all he can at Triple-A. Sure, he’ll start there to open 2018, but he’s mostly Major League ready and he’s also a first baseman. From there, you’ve also got to find playing time for Jurickson Profar. He’s out of minor league options, so he’ll be on the 25-man roster barring an unforeseen trade.
This is where I get into super-speculative mode and mention that of all the promotions the Rangers are doing at the ballpark in 2018, the ones featuring Adrian Beltre all come prior to the trade deadline. Could this be mere coincidence? Or did the Rangers want to avoid another Jonathan Lucroy scenario in which you’re handing out a bobblehead of a player no longer on the team? I’m sure it was at least considered.
The fact is, unless everything goes right and nothing goes wrong -- this all speaks nothing of potential injuries -- Adrian Beltre won’t set the Rangers over the top in 2018. Yes, he’ll put butts in seats, and maybe that’s all the organization wants. But having already cleared the 3,000-hit milestone in a Texas uniform, there’s not really much reason to hold a player hostage who can try to go win a World Series somewhere else while also adding to your future talent pool in the process.
With that in mind, I suppose I’ll do my best to enjoy every game of Beltre I can while he’s still in Texas.