This week we will be examining various trade possibilities for the Rangers as we near the MLB Trade Deadline. With Texas just a few games out of a Wild Card spot, the season is far from over despite a record seemingly stuck in neutral around .500. Whether Texas wants to trade players with expiring contracts for prospects to build for the future, trade prospects for big leaguers to help put them over the top, or stand pat and see if they can make it to October with the team they've built, the Rangers have options.
Ranger fans, sit down. We need to have a talk.
I know a lot of people don’t want you to hear about this. They feel like you’d be better off by ignoring it, pretending it doesn’t exist.
I’d rather you hear it from me, instead of on the streets or from your peers. I can give you correct information, answer any questions you have, and make this a lot easier for you going forward.
This might be uncomfortable at times, but if we handle this with maturity we’ll get through it and be better off.
Of course, I’m talking about the possibility of trading Adrian Beltre.
There’s no more hot button issue this season than the concept of Texas moving their legendary third baseman out of town. You get shouted down without hesitation, called a heretic for even considering the idea.
Before I go any further, I want to say: I understand.
I too love Adrian Beltre. He plays the game with the joy of a person one fourth his age. The knee drop homers, the Hogwarts style defensive wizardry, the Emmy worthy eternal buddy comedy with Elvis Andrus, all of that coupled with first ballot Hall of Fame production endears a player to a fan base.
I’m not here to say that the Beltre attraction is unfounded or strange. Players like Beltre are rare; they make baseball great by being identifiable characters. It’s only natural fans get attached, fall in love, and become resistant to the thought of him leaving.
All that said all good things (need to) come to an end.
The reality is this: Beltre is a valuable short term commodity on a team that should be looking long term. 2017 is a coin flip at best, the fleeting hope for a Wild Card spot being the only reasonable postseason opportunity. Plenty of people will hope traffic you a narrative of “anything can happen” etc, etc. While true, just because it can doesn’t mean it will.
2018 is more uncertain; the potential of Yu Darvish leaving this offseason puts a large ace shaped hole in the depth chart. Even if Texas signs another Japanese star in Shohei Otani, there’s no guarantees that returns Texas to the promised land of title contender. To get this team from fringe contender, where it is now, to legitimate contender will require a lot of work and probably at least another couple of years.
That’s the Beltre window in a nutshell: One year down and done, one to go shrouded in a lot of what ifs and mystery. The short term window for Texas isn’t great, which means you look towards the future.
Make no mistake Beltre is a quite valuable asset. He’s posting a .900+ OPS and 1.4 WAR in only 37 games this season coming off his calf injury. Despite one reporter who will go unnamed’s prediction, Beltre hasn’t slowed down in his advanced age. Not yet at least.
Texas has an all-around great third baseman with veteran presence (if you’re into that) and another year of control. He’s perfect for a team that will be a contender over the next 18 months, who need an established third baseman.
Enter the Boston Red Sox.
Boston leads the AL East, with Tampa Bay nipping at their heels 2.5 games back and the Yankees right behind them after making a mega-deal on Tuesday. The one two punch of Chris Sale and David Price paired with the new Killer Bs of Betts, Boegarts, and Benintendi has the Red Sox back on top of the junior circuit.
Even with all that talent, they’ve got a glaring hole: third base.
This season Boston has used five different third basemen, with the Red Sox ranking 28th in the league in third base WAR at 0.0. To say they need help is an understatement.
Deven Marrero has the most PT there, but he’s been abysmal with a sub .600 OPS and a -0.2 WAR. The recently DFA’d Pablo Sandoval was better than Marrero, but injuries and general displeasure with his performance ended his Fenway tenure. Tzu-Wei Lin, Josh Rutledge, and Brock Holt have all spent limited there with mediocre to bad results.
In addition to poor performance by incumbents, Boston’s poor trading helped put them in this position. This offseason, Boston dealt Travis Shaw to Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg. Shaw has been a huge part of Milwaukee’s surprise run, posting a .295/.365/.570 slash line with 2.8 WAR in 80 games. Thornburg hasn’t thrown a pitch for Boston this year after having Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery.
Hurts to miss that one.
It’s also worth noting who makes the decisions for the BoSox these days. Dave Dombrowski took over when Ben Cherington resigned in 2015. In his previous Detroit stop, Dombrowski had a penchant for ring chasing by trading young farm talent for established major leaguers. The Sale trade showed not much has changed.
That works to Texas’ advantage, as they need young talent in the worst way after some less than stellar trades (*cough* Lucroy*cough* ). This is a match made in heaven, where everyone can win.
So with that said, the Beltre trade should look something like this:
The Texas Rangers trade Adrian Beltre and Drew Robinson to Boston for Rafael Devers and Bryan Mata.
The inclusion of Robinson might puzzle some. There’s a logic to everything though. There have been reports that Boston scouts have had eyes on Robinson this season, and it makes sense. Their current fourth outfielder is Chris Young, who is 33 and costs $6.5 million this year. Robinson is 25, still on pre-arbitration, and is just as versatile. There’s no real room for D-Rob in Texas with the way their roster is constructed. So if Boston values him, there’s no reason to not use him as a sweetener.
Devers is the name people are most likely to know. He’s the top prospect in Beantown, just promoted to AAA Pawtucket post All Star Break. As I write this, he’s had one game posting a totally sustainable 1.000/1.000/2.000 slash line. Look out Barry Bonds!
He’s 20 in AAA, he’s a third baseman, and he hasn’t debuted in the majors yet. So if Texas acquires him, they’d have him for a minimum of six years. His 2017 AA tenure was ridiculous, with 18 homers and a whopping .408 wOBA and 154 wRC+. He’s an offensive machine. From his MLB.com scouting report:
“Devers' signature tool is his prodigious power to all fields, the product of impressive bat speed and strength. He's more than just a slugger, however, which he proved yet again with his ability to make adjustments in high Class A. While he can get aggressive at the plate, he recognizes pitches well for his age and understands he's at his best when he tries to drive the ball from gap to gap and just lets his power come natural.”
I’ll give you a second to clean the drool off your desk or phone.
Devers also presents some versatility options. There are some who think his long term future is at first. Right now you’ve got a converted third baseman at first in Joey Gallo. You could switch the two around to see who plays third better, then put the other at first long term. Either way, having both those bats in your lineup is salacious.
Mata is a lower level prospect, #26 on MLB’s Boston list. He’s freshly 18 with a May birthday, and is in Low A for his first taste of stateside ball. Mata was a 2015 international signee at 16 out of Venezuela, but he was signed six months after the traditional July 2nd signing period began. His current projection is a #4 starter. For more on Mata, take it away MLB.com:
“Mata already works in the low 90s and hits 94 mph with late life on his fastball. Given his arm speed and projectable frame, he projects to develop a plus heater. He presently shows more feel for his changeup than his curveball, and both could develop into solid secondary offerings if they become more consistent and he adds some power to his breaking ball.”
Mata is similar to Bernardo Flores, the White Sox pitcher Texas would receive in my proposed Shin-Soo Choo deal from earlier this week. He’s a lottery ticket, but the exact kind Texas needs. Mata is a young projectable pitcher at Low A with a plus fastball and could end up with a plus changeup if he develops right. Even if he just reaches that fourth starter ceiling, that’s something to celebrate.
After all, look at the struggles Texas has had finding a 4th starter over the last three years and tell me you wouldn’t like some consistency in that spot.
I understand that all of this will be met with resistance. Even if you’re getting a great young controllable third baseman along with a good ceiling 18 year old, people don’t want to give up what they know. People don’t like change…well unless you can’t perform in which case they can’t make a change soon enough.
All I’m asking is to look big picture here. Occam’s razor says if Texas keeps Beltre through his extension, they’ll have a great third baseman but won’t have a title. Beltre will retire after that deal ends without him or the team that loves him achieving their ultimate goal.
If Texas trades him to Boston, Beltre goes to a place he already knows. He gets two great chances in winning a title. Texas in return gets a piece which helps them more overall in their own title quest, maybe two if the chips fall right.
The question becomes: Would you rather both Texas and Beltre get rings, but not together or neither get a ring at all?
I love Beltre, and I’d love to see him become a champion. If that means a voyage north to do so, with the team I support getting a great piece back that means they might win one after Beltre retires? I do that. Texas doesn’t owe it to Beltre, but it’d be a nice thing to do all around.
If you love something, set it free. If you love Beltre the overall human, not just Beltre the Texas Ranger, this is the right thing to do.
That’s life though. That pain will fade with time.
A lot faster if you see Beltre cap his Hall of Fame career by raising that trophy over his head in October.
If you want to send Samuel a sternly worded note for suggesting trading Adrian Beltre, you can do so @thesamuelhale.