Adrian Beltre only played one season for the Boston Red Sox, but it was a memorable one. After toiling away in the power sapping confines of Safeco Field in Seattle for 5 seasons, Beltre was looking to prove he was still the same hitter that earned him a 5-year, $64 million deal to play for the Mariners. He signed a 1-year "prove it" deal with the Red Sox for $9 million in 2010. His production predictably spiked playing at Fenway Park, as Beltre hit .321/.365/.553 with 28 HRs and 102 RBIs – figures that surpassed any he produced in Seattle.
After making the All-Star team and finishing 9th in MVP voting, Beltre managed to cash in on another big payday. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be with Boston. The Red Sox pulled off a trade that winter to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres to play first base. The team was unwilling to splurge on two expensive corner infielders in the same off-season, so they essentially picked Gonzalez over keeping Beltre. Keep in mind that Boston also had Kevin Youkilis on the roster at the time (this was before Youk broke down and became a shell of himself seemingly overnight). There wasn't room for all three of them, so Gonzalez came in to take over at first, shifting Youkilis across the diamond to play third and sending Beltre on his way. He signed a 6-year, $96 million deal with the Texas Rangers and has been with them ever since.
Beltre has been worth every cent for the Rangers so far. He's compiled a .311 average with 106 HRs and 325 RBIs in 3-plus seasons with Texas. He has made two more All-Star appearances and been listed in the top 15 on the AL MVP ballot in all three full seasons with his new team. He was also a big part of helping the Rangers get back to the World Series in 2011, where they fell in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In retrospect, those numbers may have Red Sox fans wishing the team had held on to Beltre. Particularly since Youkilis and Gonzalez both lasted only about a year and a half with the team after that. Youkilis saw his production fall off a cliff in 2012 and was shipped off to the Chicago White Sox for two players that made little to no impact in limited action in Boston. Soon after, Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers in a deal you may have heard of.
Boston has struggled to fill the third base position ever since Beltre left town. Will Middlebrooks showed flashes of potential at first, but he's been a mess at the plate for the better part of the past two seasons, in between trips to the disabled list. Xander Bogaerts is currently holding down the hot corner, but he's a natural shortstop and was only recently pushed back to third out of necessity when the Sox re-signed Stephen Drew last month.
However, if the Red Sox hadn't picked Gonzalez over Beltre, they may not have managed to pull off the trade with the Dodgers. Remember that the Dodgers were salivating over Gonzalez to the extent that they were willing to take on the bloated contracts of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in order to get the deal done. It's unclear if they would have been so eager to trade for Beltre. If the Sox don't manage to dump those bad contracts on LA, then they don't rebuild the culture of the clubhouse in several key moves with the money they freed up to construct the team that won last year's World Series. How's that for a "What If" story?
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