For a while there was a dreamy possibility – that likely future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre would return for a second engagement with the Red Sox after his successful 2010 cameo.
Beltre, 39, will go down as one of the great one-year wonders in Red Sox history. The 2010 season basically resurrected his career. Agent Scott Boras gambled that one year in Boston would catapult Beltre into a multiyear deal. It sure did: .321 average, 28 homers, 102 RBIs, a league-best 49 doubles, and a .919 OPS.
It was a coup for then GM Theo Epstein. But Epstein, acknowledging Beltre’s strong season, had the opportunity to trade for Adrian Gonzalez, a player he had coveted for a few years. So Epstein decided to let Beltre go, trade for Gonzalez (offering Anthony Rizzo, Rey Fuentes and Casey Kelly to the Padres), and move Kevin Youkilis to third base. The decision worked out better for Beltre than anyone else. Gonzalez hit .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBIs for the Sox in 2011.
“I loved it here,” Beltre said before Wednesday’ s series finale with the Red Sox. “I loved the fans and the great ballpark and it was a fun place for me to play. It helped my career to play here, no doubt about it. I would have loved to stay here, but I understood, and I understood now, it’s a business. The Red Sox made a business decision. They had two choices — they could have signed me or they could have gotten Gonzalez and they decided on Gonzalez. I’m OK with that.
“[The Red Sox] made me an offer but it wasn’t as good as some of the other ones out there. The Rangers really stepped up and made me feel like they wanted me here. I’m so happy it happened because the Rangers’ organization treated me so well.”
Although Beltre played on two teams that went to the World Series, what he wants, even now, is to win a championship before his career is over.
Which is why he said he’s open to a deal, even with his no-trade veto power.
“If it’s the right situation I would consider going with the chance that I could win a championship,” Beltre said. “It’s not going to happen here [with Texas], unfortunately. So to be able to go somewhere and help a team win a championship, that’s important to me.”
And there seems to be opportunities for him.
Terry Francona managed Beltre in that 2010 season and the Indians could use Beltre at third base and DH. The Braves have youth at third base and could use a veteran leadership presence that Beltre can provide. The Yankees are said to be looking at Manny Machado, but Beltre would serve their purposes as well.
For a moment, there appeared to be scenario in which Beltre would return to the Red Sox and platoon with Rafael Devers, maybe teach the kid how to play third base in the big leagues. But the Red Sox opted for Steve Pearce, making a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Pearce has worked out very well in Boston and has allowed manager Alex Cora flexibility at first base with Pearce and Mitch Moreland.
Beltre loves Devers’s potential and believes he has a chance to be a big-time player with more seasoning.
But the Red Sox decided they were going to ride it out with Devers, who leads the majors with 19 errors. And Beltre, who has had a couple of hamstring injuries, has stayed put for now.
“I’m probably as healthy as I’ve been right now,” said Beltre, save for a recent tooth infection.
Health, he said, will be one of the factors as he decides what he’s going to do after this season.
“It’s a couple of things — when the season ends I sit with my family and my kids and we make the decision together,” Beltre said. “My kids have sacrificed a lot for me to do what I love, but now they’re part of the decision with everybody involved. And the other part is my health. I’ve had a few injuries, but like I said I’m healthy now.”
Beltre is the major league’s active leader in hits (3,112) and he needs three more to tie Alex Rodriguez for 20th on the career list. He’s hit 466 home runs. Lately he’s been in a bit of a dip — 5 for 32 after Wednesday’s 4-2 loss — which has dropped his average to .288. But he’s been hitting .379 with runners in scoring position since May. It appears once the Machado chips fall, Beltre could see some action.
“Whatever happens, I’ll take a look at the situation and make a decision,” Beltre said. “All that matters to me right now is winning a championship.”