Would Carlos Beltran have dropped David Freese‘s fly ball with the World Series on the line?
That’s a bit of a silly question (mostly because the answer is “most likely not” … for just about any other outfielder), but it might be a scenario that the Texas Rangers can find out the answer to in this coming offseason. For yet another year, it’ll be one of significant change too; Nolan Ryan is gone, Joe Nathan is expected to opt out of his contract option and oh, the team might lose a couple of outfielders.
With David Murphy and slugger Nelson Cruz potentially (or likely, depending on who you believe) leaving the Lone Star State for greener pastures and bigger paydays, the Rangers could be potentially fielding an outfield corps consisting of Alex Rios, Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry should they choose to mostly stay put as they did last offseason.
Well, let’s just say that upper-deck home runs are going to be a bit more of a rare sight should that be the case.
Texas fans don’t need any reminders as to how much a lack of power can hurt the team’s chances for the postseason. While Martin and Gentry were actually the two most valuable outfielders for the Rangers largely thanks to their defense and the 70 steals between them in 2013, the team is going to have its issues scoring runs if they can’t replace the potential 40 home runs lost between Murphy and Cruz.
So, what if they signed a player coming from a team whose mold to success is on the opposite end of the spectrum, where things like home runs don’t take center stage?
Enter Beltran, just one of two St. Louis Cardinals players to hit more than 20 home runs in 2013. He’s currently perfectly content and occupied with making his first World Series appearance, of course, but with the redbirds just about ready to move on in the outfield with Oscar Taveras, it’s a good possibility that win or lose, the slugger will be headed elsewhere in the offseason.
And while he’s certainly not the only power bat available in the outfield as far as the free agent market goes, he could be the one that the Rangers need the most.
After all, who better to chase the ghosts of late-season and playoff collapses of the last few years than perhaps the best postseason hitter of this generation? The 36-year old’s skills might be in decline (4.3 fWAR, 3.3, 2.0 from 2011 to 2013), but much of that drop in value is attributed to his defense, something that he doesn’t have to worry about on a regular basis in the AL.
What the Rangers would get is a middle-of-the-order bat that would give them a legitimate force of a lineup which features Adrian Beltre, Beltran and Rios as the marquee triple-threat that wouldn’t skip a beat offensively from the mercurial, oft-injured Cruz. More importantly, it would likely come at a reasonable cost of a two-year deal similar to the one he signed with the Cards, unlike what it will take to sign Cruz.
The biggest thing, however, is that Beltran brings game-changing abilities in October baseball.
It’s not something that’s easily quantified or truly explained by numbers, though they will certainly back up what baseball fans have seen throughout his career. After watching Josh Hamilton collapse late in the 2012 season and the Game 163 disappointment in 2013, the Rangers can be assured that if they were to acquire Beltran, he would know nothing other than to step up in situations like these.
They’d have to get back to the big stage first of course, and that’s easier said than done; but should the Rangers get back there, instead of simply being a replacement power bat, Beltran could be the piece to finally put them over the top.