DALLAS — The position that will see the most radical change on the field for the Texas Rangers in 2019, outside of catcher, is going to be at the Hot Corner.
Third base is where the Rangers Community said goodbye to a legend when future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre retired this winter and will now welcome a veteran presence in Asdrubal Cabrera that is more than just a simple placeholder.
- Opening Day: Adrian Beltre
- Through the Season: Jurickson Profar, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Renato Nunez, Hanser Alberto, Drew Robinson
Despite the official word not coming until after the season, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that 2018 would be Adrian Beltre’s last as a player in professional baseball. Beltre, being the self-dismissive player he is, wouldn’t say anything about it until the season wrapped up which left a tiny bit of hope that his Hall of Fame career would continue.
However, with little but superficial anticipation and diffused drama, Beltre announced his official retirement on November 20th. But the man leaves behind a legacy that will certainly have him bound for Cooperstown and perhaps, most importantly for him, got to make his exit on his own terms.
At age 39, Adrian Beltre finished the 2018 season with a .273/.328/.434 slash line, 15 homers, 65 RBI and 2.2 bWAR. A completely respectable tally that ranked him third in value on a team built for youth. Such a line gave thought that perhaps there was still something in the tank, were it not for the injuries that had become more prevalent in the last few seasons.
To that end, Beltre was limited to 119 games in 2019. That was still more than 2017, but not nearly as many as his previous seasons in Texas. Despite the sense that we were seeing the end of one of the best, it was still impressive to watch the elder statesman put up the numbers he did, giving his maximum effort, even in a losing season.
Beltre’s career stats are understated but include 3,166 hits over a 21 year career, averaging 140 games a season while maintaining his defensive wizardry, and playing through injuries that floor most normal players. He earned the respect of former, present and future greats.
Beltre ended his career with a .286/.339/.480 career slash, 477 homers, 1,707 RBI and a lifetime 95.6 WAR. None of that sums up the value he had in the clubhouse for the Rangers, however.
Beltre was a clubhouse voice, enforcer and motivator, a leader by example on the field and off, with a propensity for constantly taking hits for the team and shouldering blame for losses that weren’t his fault. It’s that culture that will rub off on the Rangers for as long as anyone who played with him stays in Arlington.
- Projected Opening Day: Asdrubal Cabrera
- Depth: Logan Forsythe, Isiah Kiner-Falefa
There will certainly will be a different look at the hot corner in 2019 for the Rangers and not just because of Beltre's departure. For much of the offseason, it was presumed that Jurickson Profar would slide into a regular role as the new third baseman. However, in late December, the Rangers traded Profar to the division rival Oakland A's.
With Profar finally moving on after years of start-and-stop development, and everyone else on the aforementioned 2018 third basemen list gone (save for converted catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa), the Rangers are rebuilding this position from the ground up. That rebuild starts with 12-year veteran Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cabrera, going into his age-33 season, spent his first years with the Cleveland Indians and then spent short stints in Washington, Tampa Bay, New York with the Mets and Philadelphia.
Perhaps a main factor in signing Cabrera is that he's been a player with a history of health and dependability, playing in at least 130 games in every season since 2009. Over that time, he’s been a consistent hitter, save for a slump during his 2013 and 2014 seasons, mostly seeing his batting average hover around the .265-.270 mark while maintaining an on-base percentage over .300.
Defensively, Cabrera has been all around the diamond, though primarily at shortstop. Third base, where he will be relied upon in Texas, is actually where Cabrera has spent the least amount of time defensively, a total of 67 games over his career.
It’s going to be a radical departure from the sure-handed Beltre, but Texas is hoping that his offensive production outweighs potential defensive liabilities.
Consider also that the complete overhaul of the Rangers’ rotation and pitching staff, and the influence of new pitching coach Julio Rangel, is geared more towards strikeouts than trying to induce weak contact and ground balls as it had been in the recent past.
Perhaps the strategy in bringing Cabrera aboard would be that infield defense on that side isn’t as much a factor with a little less contact expected from the swings of their opponents.
For $3.5 million, though, the type of veteran presence that Cabrera can bring, the switch-hitting pop he can provide, and the experience he has gives the Rangers the ability to go into the season not feeling like there's a black hole at a position where a legend has cast such a long shadow.
Asdrubal Cabrera won't be able to fill Adrian Beltre's shoes, and he won't be asked to, but the Rangers know that they have a steady presence at third base for 2019 which is what they need as they continue to search for the future at the position while honoring the past.
Do you think Asdrubal Cabrera will do an honorable job at manning third base for the Rangers? Make your predictions with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.