On the verge of losing one baseball’s most talented center fielders, the Boston Red Sox are already scouring the free-agent market for an immediate replacement. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo seeking long-term contracts, the Red Sox would be smart to stick with their newly-developed blueprint and pursue free agent right fielder Carlos Beltran.
Beltran, 36, would address Boston’s most pressing needs. Lacking lineup protection and flexibility, Beltran offers an excellent solution at a more reasonable cost. Staying true to their current free-agent plan that landed both Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino last offseason, Beltran fits the same category, a shorter-term contract at higher value.
Averaging 26 home runs, Beltran has posted a .910, .841 and .830 OPS over the past three seasons. Accustomed to the top half of the batting order, the switch-hitting Beltran would ideally fit into either the second or sixth spot of the Red Sox lineup, offering protection to Boston’s best hitters.
Signing Beltran would also result in the shift of Victorino from right field to center field. While almost impossible to duplicate last season’s outfield defense, Beltran serves as a strong substitute. Tallying 24 outfield assists over the past three seasons, Beltran has a career .989 fielding percentage in right field.
With playoff hopes remaining high in Boston, Beltran would be welcomed with open arms for October. A career .333 hitter in postseason play, Beltran has delivered 16 HRs, 40 RBIs and a 1.128 OPS in 51 career playoff games, ranking him amongst baseball’s postseason greats.
As Ellsbury proves to be too rich for the Red Sox, Beltran offers a true bargain in the range of three years, $48-51 million and fitting perfectly into Boston’s blueprint.