Yu Darvish is going to get Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. As Michael Baumann noted, this is a tragedy on multiple levels and the Rangers look like they may be just as snakebitten by injuries this year as they were last. Despite the fact that almost every team in the AL has reason to hope this year, with the loss of Darvish and Profar, the Rangers are probably looking at another year in last place. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre is out there at 3B, in the midst of a mid-to-late 30s second peak that is nudging him closer and closer to legitimate Hall of Fame candidacy. And the White Sox need a third baseman...
Adrian Beltre has had a fascinating career. Rushed to the majors at age 19 because of his fantastic glove at third, his bat struggled to catch up for years. It wasn't until his age 25 season when his OPS+ jumped from 88 to 163 and he hit 48 home runs that he seemed to put it all together. Then he signed in Seattle and proceeded to have his numbers deflated by SafeCo and nagging injuries from age 26-30 where most players hit their best. Since then, he has been in hitter friendly parks like Boston and Texas, has mostly been healthy, and has taken a step forward in his contact skills. Since 2010, Beltre has hit .316/.364/.535, all while continuing to play his sparkling defense at third.
Beltre is owed $16 million this year and the Rangers have already picked up his $18 million option for 2016. After that he will be 38 and a free agent.
But injuries may have completely destroyed Texas' competitive window. New acquisitions Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder were basically useless last year and now it remains to be seen how they will bounce back. The rotation has been similarly ravaged, with Derek Holland and Martin Perez felled, amongst others. Even middling, filler players like Mitch Moreland have not been able to escape the flood of ailments.
Yes, there are two Wild Card spots now, and yes, the only complete, clear playoff-looking teams are in the NL (Washington, St. Louis, and the Dodgers), but the Rangers' chances are slim. Even if Choo and Fielder bounce back to pre-injury production, the lineup lacks depth, and the rotation is thoroughly uninspiring. If the Rangers perform as they look like they should - i.e. badly - then it would make sense for them to put Beltre on the trade block. If they don't do it this year, his 10/5 rights would kick in, and if they wanted to flip him in the last year of his deal they would need him to agree to it.
It's obvious why the White Sox would be interested. We are all fond of Conor Gillaspie, but Beltre would be a colossal upgrade, and although it would be expensive the financial commitment would be short.
How possible is this? I wouldn't count on it. The Rangers have already picked up Beltre's option - the reason to do that now is probably to foster good will and continue to build up Beltre as the face of the franchise, and keep him happy through the 2015 season. Also, the Rangers' front office has demonstrated that when they love a guy, they really, really don't want to trade him, even if it makes baseball sense. Jurickson Profar was the #1 prospect in baseball largely because he could really field at shortstop. Despite that, they signed Elvis Andrus to a billion dollar extension, blocking Profar, and started talking about Profar playing 2B while hitting him in LF and DH. All of this despite having a multitude of 2B options in house already. As a team that had come off of back-to-back World Series losses and several years as a serious contender, one imagines they could have converted Profar into a number of assets that would help them - or flipped Andrus, or whatever. Instead they basically stood pat and now Profar is worth a fraction of what he was two season-ending shoulder injuries ago, while Andrus' contract just looks atrocious.
The White Sox would also have to outbid a number of other teams for Beltre's services. It's unclear what the team would have to give up to get him, and the price might be too rich for Hahn's blood - it could be something like Tim Anderson, Spencer Adams, and Frank Montas, for example. The nice thing about the recovery of the White Sox farm system, however, is that they have actually stockpiled enough assets to make trades like this a possibility, even if they don't want to.*
*I am now wondering if the White Sox couldn't have beaten the package the Blue Jays put together for Josh Donaldson.
As with all trade speculation, this is basically the childlike musings of a fan. "Can you imagine if [Team I Root For] replaced [Mediocre Player] with [All Star]?!" But, it's possible we have just begun to feel the ripples of Yu Darvish' injury - it's possible Beltre will be on the move as a result, whether it is to Chicago or elsewhere.
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