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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Carlos Beltran and the Boston Red Sox Seem Like a Perfect Match

Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz rode off into the sunset at the end of the 2016 season after spending 14 historical years with the team. He can never be truly replaced but the lineup will have a huge hole if a reasonable successor is not identified. Fortunately, Boston seems to be hot on the trail of a tremendous candidate in veteran Carlos Beltran.

Although no deal has been struck, rumors persist that the Red Sox are one of a few teams thought to be in the lead for the services of the soon-to-be 40-year-old. Despite his advanced age, Beltran is an ageless wonder, much like Ortiz, and could be as seamless a transition as the Red Sox could hope for.

Playing for seven teams over 19 major league seasons, Beltran began as an outfielder but has seen more and more time at designated hitter as he has gotten older. He has combined  for a .281 batting average, 421 home runs, 1,536 RBIs, 312 stolen bases and one of the best postseason resumes in history (.323, 16 home runs and 41 RBIs in 55 postseason games).

Beltran kept chugging along in 2016. Playing in 155 combined games with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, he hit .295 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs. This translated to a roster spot on the American League All Star team. The switch-hitter is a real professional hitter and there is little reason to believe he won’t continue to be productive moving forward.

The appeal of the free agent to the Red Sox should be manifold. His experience and veteran leadership are obvious. That alone would be immensely helpful in helping bridge from Ortiz, who was a once-in-a-lifetime type of presence for the team. Also, given Beltran’s age, he will not require a contract as exorbitant in years or money as some of the other designated hitter candidates on the market such as Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

If Beltran were to play any significant time in the field it would mean something had gone very wrong with the team’s plans. Boston not only has better defensive options but it is also the best way to keep him healthy. However, he is still capable of logging some occasional innings with a glove if needed. That kind of flexibility would provide infinite value, as the major question of what returning pariah Pablo Sandoval will be and what he can do in 2017 still remains completely to be seen.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox will face stiff competition in attempting to lure Beltran to the Hub. The Yankees and Houston Astros are rumored to be the other two teams with the most interest. Nearing the end of his career, it’s likely that he is hoping to land in a situation that will garner him his first World Series ring. Although that would seemingly take the rebuilding Yankees out of the equation, he lives there and apparently loved his previous time with the team. The Astros are chock full of young talent, but just missed the playoffs in 2016 and have already made major rumblings this offseason. They may be a team to watch in 2017 but then again so are the Red Sox, who did make the playoffs this past year and won a World Series as recently as 2013 with a deep roster and deeper pockets.

Boston may not need to make a lot of moves to get back to contention next year. However, they do need to find a replacement for Ortiz; especially someone who can come as close as possible to matching his production and leadership. They will likely not find someone better equipped as Beltran, so the ensuing weeks will be interesting to see if the Red Sox emerge as a mutual match for his services.

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