USA Today Sports

Adrian Beltre should have retired a Red Sox

Rob Bradford
November 20, 2018 - 11:01 am

Adrian Beltre retired Tuesday.

The 39-year-old issued a statement ending what is undoubtedly going to result in a Hall of Fame career. He thanked his original club, the Dodgers, and all the other teams that he wore the uniform of throughout his 21-year big league career. Seattle. Boston. And the club the third baseman spent the last eight seasons with, Texas. (To read the entire statement, click here.)

What the decision should do around these parts is make us think about what might have been. Beltre was in town for just one season -- 2010. It should have been more. A lot more.

The reason Beltre arrived with the Red Sox in the first place was due to the need for a re-establishment of his value. He had underperformed in his previous four seasons in Seattle (ultimately the worst stretch of his career) and Scott Boras found Boston to be a perfect place to send the third baseman on what was deemed a "pillow contract," a one-year, $10 million deal.

"A pillow contract,'' said Beltre's agent at the time, "is basically, you lay down, it's comfortable. When you wake up in the morning, it's soft, it's there, but it's not there with you all the time. That's a one-year contract. It's a pillow. You use it for a little bit, and you go on.''

After revitalizing his career with an All-Star season with the Red Sox, hitting .321 with a .921 OPS and 36 homers in 154 games, Beltre did move on.

From the Red Sox' perspective, Beltre's multi-year deal with the Rangers wasn't a game-changer. But then they had traded for his replacement, Adrian Gonzalez, moving Kevin Youkilis back over to third base. And for most of 2011, it all seemed a perfectly palatable strategy. While Beltre seemed like a season-ending injury waiting to happen, and Gonzalez was in the prime of his career.

But despite his stellar offensive output in that first season with the Red Sox Gonzalez's tenure wasn't striking the right tone, a reality that ultimately led to his trade to the Dodgers the next season.

At it turned out, the Red Sox could have really used Beltre beyond that one year. They picked the wrong guy. (It should be noted that the Sox did end up drafting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart with the picks they got for Beltre leaving.)

When it has been suggested to those in and around the Sox clubhouse during the 2011 collapse that things might have been different if the presence of Beltre and Victor Martinez were still around, not one person has disagreed. As he proved with the Rangers, Beltre is the kind of anchor every team needs. He has always been one of the toughest players in baseball while offering elite production while remaining on the field.

From 2011-16 Beltre was about as reliable and productive as they come. During that time your Red Sox' third basemen (after the trade of Youkilis in 2012) were primarily Will Middlebrooks and Pablo Sandoval until Travis Shaw offered his breakout season in 2016. 

The Red Sox carry the second-to-last OPS and batting average at the third base position of any team in baseball since Beltre left. So, there you go.

Admittedly, this is a complete second-guess. But considering what Beltre was after leaving Boston all the way until he announced his retirement, it's not unreasonable to think how things might have been different. Dare to dream.