Will Adrian Beltre return in 2019 at the age of 40?
Adrian Beltre is on a tear in the final month of the 2018 season for the Texas Rangers. Over his last five games, an even 20 plate appearances, he’s hit four home runs, scored five runs, and slashed .444/.500/1.167, bringing his overall slash line in 2018 to .279/.338/.424, and showing that when healthy, the 39-year-old can still hit. Even though Beltre’s recent surge won’t have any bearing on the Rangers’ 2018 season, it could have an effect on 2019 for Texas.
If Beltre keeps crushing the ball for the rest of the year, could he be convinced to return to Arlington for his 22nd season in the Big Leagues? Only in the past two seasons has Beltre been hampered by injuries for Texas. In his first six seasons with the Rangers, starting in 2011, Beltre averaged 148 games per season. He came to Texas for his age-32 season. As of Sunday night, Beltre has played 196 games over his past two years.
Beltre is in a unique situation. While most 39-year-old hitters experience a decline in their effectiveness at the plate because of slower bat speed, the four-time All-Star hasn’t seen his numbers drop off like other longtime veterans. His name has to be in the Hall of Fame discussion at least by this point in his career if he hangs up the cleats tomorrow morning. But if he still has it, why hang them up?
On the other hand, he puts Rangers manager Jeff Bannister in a bind by taking playing time and at-bats away from September call-ups in the Rangers’ organization. Even though Beltre insists his performance down the stretch of this rebuilding season for Texas won’t affect his retirement decision, his two home runs on Saturday might help remind him that the game is still worth playing. If he does play next season for the Rangers, it seems he’ll still be an asset, even if he doesn’t get as many plate appearances as he’s accustomed to.
Speaking of veterans, will Bartolo Colon lace it up next year, too? His move to the bullpen is a chance to see other arms coming up to the big-league club, and Colon would likely find a place to play in 2019, if the Rangers let him go.
Rest of the West
The Houston Astros won two of three against the MLB-best Boston Red Sox on the road, showing how dangerous they will be in the playoffs this season. If they can hold off the Oakland A’s and avoid the do-or-die matchup against the New York Yankees (as I predict will happen), they can be trouble in five- and seven-game series, as we saw last year. Their bullpen, aside from Hector Rondon allowing a walk-off home run to Mitch Moreland in the final game of the series, was solid against the fearsome Boston lineup, and Houston came up with big hits on numerous occasions in the series, a true October preview.
The A’s stayed hot, finishing off a sweep against Texas this weekend and keeping pace with Houston. Bob Melvin’s team could very well take the AL West if the Astros stumble against beatable competition down the stretch. Add another young player to the A’s roster of diamonds in the ruff: Ramon Laureano. The 24-year-old rookie has hit five home runs in his limited time with the big-league club, while playing solid outfield defense. He hit two home runs from his leadoff spot on Friday.
The Seattle Mariners managed one win against the Yankees on their slide out of playoff contention for the 17th-straight season. Mitch Haniger helped Edwin Diaz save his 54th game this season with a diving catch to record the final out of Sunday’s 3-2 victory. The win was their 35th one-run victory this season, a club record. Haniger will be a key piece for the Mariners’ efforts next season, but could Designated Hitter Nelson Cruz be on his way out when his contract expires at the end of this season? Jerry Dipoto should start drawing up a one- or two-year deal with an option right now.
The LA Angels swept the hapless Chicago White Sox with the help of Shohei Ohtani, who, despite suffering a torn UCL in a pointless start last week, can still mash. Ohtani has a ridiculous eight hits in his last 16 at-bats, including four home runs with 10 RBIs. He even stole two bases and added a triple for good measure. Ohtani has an interesting decision to make. If he wants to keep pitching and be ready for next season, he’ll likely have to accept Tommy John surgery and end his rookie season. Even if he wants to pitch and hit again for the Angels next year, will Los Angeles allow him because of his injuries, in spite of his effectiveness?
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