‘Career’ Ranger Beltre focused on 2015 season
Adrian Beltre made his debut in Texas Rangers camp Sunday in what could be his final season with the club contractually.
It’s likely not going to go down that way though.
Beltre, the club’s most valuable player in a lost 2014 season, needs 586 plate appearances this season to have his 2016 option picked up for $16 million.
The Rangers have no plans to let it get to that point because they realize the value of having the game’s best third baseman in their lineup for years to come even though he’s 35.
"We would like Adrian to finish his career as a Ranger," Texas general manager Jon Daniels said. "He’s got the option year for next year. We’ll address that relatively soon. I don’t want that to be a distraction or a story as we go through the year."
What the Rangers want the story with Beltre to be is that he continues on a Hall of Fame track that he’s only solidified in his four years with the Rangers. He’s been an All-Star in three of the four years, finished in the top 15 in American League most valuable player voting in all four years, won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards.
Those aren’t the kind of guys you let get away regardless of their age and Beltre made it clear Sunday that if all things are equal he wants to stay with the Rangers. And more importantly, he wants to win with the club.
"I’m comfortable here," Beltre said. "I like the city. I like the fans. It’s a great spot for me. I can’t even think how appreciative I am of the fans and the city of Dallas and Arlington. It all depends. The main focus for me the last two, three or four years, whatever I got left, is to win. If this team shows it wants to win while I’m here I don’t want to go anywhere else."
Beltre’s played in at least 148 games in each of the last three seasons with Texas and has had at least 614 plate appearances in those years, which would make the will they or won’t they on the contract option a moot point anyways.
Those plate appearances are also a testament to the kind of player Beltre is. Rarely is he 100 percent healthy because of nagging issues with his legs but he doesn’t miss games either. He doesn’t like the idea of taking time off and he said that the only two goals he’s failed to accomplish in his career are playing in 162 games and winning a World Series.
Beltre already has the respect of the Texas clubhouse with the way he plays. It didn’t take long for new manager Jeff Banister to feel the same way about him.
"Everything about him just exudes teammate, team member, championship-type player, do anything that a team and organization needs to do and he’s going to lead with his style of play," Banister said. "If he’s not an influence on all of us then we need to reassess what we look for in influences."
Beltre hit .324 last season with 19 home runs and 77 RBI despite teams working around him with the injury-depleted Texas lineup. He’d like to see what a healthy Texas squad can do this season.
"Obviously we know what Prince (Fielder) can do," Beltre said. "(Shin-Soo) Choo is top notch and can get on base. Elvis (Andrus) talking to him he’s healthy. if we all stay together it could be fun. We have about five or six weeks here and hopefully get out of here healthy. We can do the best to create runs for our offense and be consistent the whole year."
If Texas struggles and goes into a rebuilding mode Beltre said he’s not sure he’d want to stay with the club because he "doesn’t have time to waste". But the Rangers don’t believe they’re in that mode and they want to make sure Beltre doesn’t go anywhere.
"I’m not worried about that really," Daniels said. "One I think we’re going to be good in 2015. I think the talent’s there for us to win now. It’ not a situation where the gap, there’s a big gap in our system and all we have are these 18 and 19-year old kids. We have kids that are knocking on the door that are here in camp that are in our minds going to be ready to contribute at a high level in a relatively short amount of time. I feel pretty good about the short and medium term as well, which is where his mindset is. And I respect that."
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