Last year, I started a little series called One Year Wonder where I explored Red Sox players from the past who played just one season with the Red Sox and really excelled. The first player I thought of when I began my research was Adrian Beltre. Last night, the Sox played the Texas Rangers, for whom Beltre currently plays, although he is on the DL right now. The result was not so great.
As we wish Beltre a swift return to health, it seemed like the perfect time to remember when Boston had that privilege of watching him every day for an entire season.
How He Came to Boston
Beltre has been playing baseball professionally for a long time. He was signed by the Dodgers in 1994 and four years later made his MLB debut at just 19-years-old. He was a mainstay in the Dogers lineup for years after that, slashing .274/.332/.463 in 3,818 plate appearances. For much of that time, he was a fairly average player with some pop and a nice glove. Then, in 2004, the greatest year in baseball history, Beltre swatted 48 home runs and drove in 121 runs while slashing .334/.388/.629. He did that at just 25-years-old and somehow wasn’t on the All Star team, although he did come in second in NL MVP voting.
After that miraculous 2004 campaign, Beltre left Los Angeles and headed north to Seattle, where he signed a five-year deal worth more than $60 million with the Seattle Mariners. Seattle was not as kind to Beltre’s bat, as he spent five years there and was unable to replicate his play from 2004. But he was still a pretty good MLB player, with a 101 OPS+ in 3,059 plate appearances and three seasons with 25 home runs. His last year in Seattle was 2009 and it seemed like he might be coming to the end of the road, as he played in a then career-low 111 games while hitting only eight home runs and posting an OPS+ of 83.
After inking such a lucrative deal with the Mariners the first time he was a free agent, he was met with much less interest on his second go-around at age 30. Boston signed the third baseman for $9 million for one year.
What He Did in Boston
It was $9 million well spent as Beltre had a rejuvenating season during which he led the Red Sox in bWAR (7.8), ranking ahead of second-place finisher Clay Buchholz (5.7) . Beltre upped his batting average to .321, a nearly 60-point jump from the previous season and the first time since 2004 that he batted above .300. His average was most helped by his incredible production of doubles. He hit a MLB-leading 49 two-baggers and his OPS+ of 141 was the best mark he had recorded since 2004. That 2010 season also featured Beltre’s first All-Star appearance. It took him 11 years to get there, which is nuts.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox just weren’t good enough to make the playoffs that season, even though they won 89 games. They would have earned the second Wild Card if that existed, but it didn’t at that point. Instead, they came in third in the AL East behind powerhouse teams in Tampa Bay (96-66) and New York (95-67).
Why He Left Boston
After saving his career in Boston, Beltre was a hot commodity in the 2010-11 offseason and he cashed in with a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers. The Red Sox didn’t make as big a play for his services, but that was probably because they were busy trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford.
What He Did After Boston
Beltre has now played more seasons for the Rangers (eight) than any other team and somehow he’s gotten better. He has a 132 OPS+ in 4,232 career plate appearances in Texas and besides hist first season when he hit .296, he has never hit below .300. He also has hit 185 of his 463 career home runs in Texas and been to the All-Star time three times in a Rangers uniform. Along the way he has built a lock-solid Hall of Fame case and become one of the more beloved players throughout the league, even if he doesn’t want you to touch his head. May he play for another 20 years, even if they probably won’t be in Boston.
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