ANAHEIM, Calif. – A thought for Dave Dombrowski and the Boston Red Sox: Adrian Beltre.
Re-Beltre, as it were, seven years after Beltre left Boston and through a good portion of his 30’s did this for the Texas Rangers: .307 batting average, .874 OPS, 175 home runs, three Gold Gloves, four MVP top tens and seven World Series games.
At 38 he remains the same player, if this season slightly more fragile, and the same sturdy, revered soul. The Red Sox need a third baseman, and may until Rafael Devers is ripe. The Rangers need to think about who they are today, next season and the season after, along with what the Houston Astros are going to be during that time, which is why Yu Darvish probably can be had. Beltre is due the rest of $18 million this season and another $18 million in 2018. That’s mere qualifying offer money for a player who is aging about as well as one can on a baseball field.
So, two things would have to happen:
The Red Sox would have to overpay, whatever that means today. In this case it would mean helping to put the Rangers in a better position to compete with the Astros, and relatively soon.
Then, Beltre would have to agree to the trade, both because he has no-trade protection and the Rangers could only do right by a man who has become iconic in Arlington in a short time span. If he wants to stay, he stays. If the team must be reworked in the years Beltre will be finishing his career, then perhaps he’d prefer regular October work. Beltre enjoyed his year – 2010 – in Boston. The Red Sox won 89 games. His OPS was .918. The front and manager’s offices have turned over, but the new folks seem reasonable enough. The team is good and young enough to be sustainable. Boston’s not a bad place to grow old and make a run at a championship or three.
Can it happen? Maybe not. Maybe they think this is dopey. But Dombrowski thinks big and Jon Daniels does too, and Dombrowski is in first place and Daniels is not, and sometimes two bright guys find themselves thinking the same thing at the same time, and with a deadline approaching.
Now, the Red Sox seem fairly happy with their offense. They score some runs. It’s fine. What it lacks – home runs – Beltre could provide. He hit 32 last season. In a quarter of this season, one fouled early by calf issues, he’s hit eight. The same 32-homer pace. That’s only six fewer than David Ortiz hit last year.
It’s an odd world where the game’s trend is toward more home runs (and more strikeouts) and the Red Sox are last in the league in homers and hardly strike out at all. And, of course, rank with the league leaders in stolen bases and walks. The game is swinging from its heels and living with the result while the Red Sox manufacture and swing gap to gap. OK, great. Nobody really cares how – well, nobody in the dugout anyway – only how many, and how often.
“We’re a whole different type of team,” Dombrowski said Friday afternoon in the Red Sox dugout. “I have thought that a few of our guys would hit more homers as the season goes on. … But we continue to talk about using the whole field, two-strike approaches, and Chili’s that type of hitting coach.”
Chili Davis isn’t going to turn every swing path into an uppercut because somebody whispers “launch angle.” It wasn’t the hitter he was, it’s not the hitter Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia or Xander Bogaerts are, and, besides, the offense is, you know, fine.
“Hanley [Ramirez] probably could produce more homers,” Davis said. “Mitch [Moreland] has the pop. Hey, let me put it this way: if at the end of October we’re holding up a big trophy, I’ll think we did pretty good.”
The words had barely left his throat when the Red Sox had stood in the Angel Stadium batter’s box against Ricky Nolasco and gone double-single-groundout-single-single-wild pitch-single-double to pop five first-inning runs for Chris Sale.
It works. Meanwhile, no American League team has received less production from its third basemen than the Red Sox have. On a roster that’s fairly set, it’s where you go to get better, and there are plenty of options out there. But how much better does Eduardo Nunez make you? Asdrubal Cabrera? Martin Prado? Yunel Escobar?
Dombrowski said that, yes, of course he likes home runs. Who doesn’t like home runs?
“The number I’d really like to lead the league in is doubles,” he said, because that’s a lineup that is driving the ball all over the field. Good hitters, he said, hit a lot of doubles.
“Chili believes in that,” he said. “John [Farrell] believes in that.”
Betts is tied for the league lead in doubles. Ortiz led the league last year. They are and were good hitters. And seven years ago they had a guy lead the league in doubles. Adrian Beltre, another good hitter.