With the Trade Deadline quickly approaching, contending teams are aggressively filling needs with various additions around the league, but the Braves have remained relatively quiet to this point. The rumor mill has been swirling however, with Atlanta reportedly having interest in controllable starting pitchers, a multitude of relief pitchers, and apparently Mike Moustakas. Reports surfaced on Thursday linking the Braves to third baseman Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers:
The Rangers are likely not done before Tuesday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Clubs are asking about their relievers and the Braves have become a longshot possibility to acquire third baseman Adrian Beltre. The Braves are in need of a right-handed bat plus veteran leadership to help lead a young team. Beltre would provide that while sharing time at third base with the switch-hitting Johan Camargo.
While the Braves may have more pressing needs in the bullpen, the necessity for added infield depth makes Beltre the perfect fit for an Atlanta front office that has been cautious in dealing away top prospects. As currently constructed, the club would greatly benefit from adding the 39-year-old via trade before the deadline on Tuesday.
What makes Beltre a perfect fit in Atlanta, aside from his relatively low acquisition cost, is some combination of his presence in the lineup and his presence in the clubhouse. In the lineup, Beltre represents a much-needed right-handed batter to slot in with Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. Beltre may not uproot Markakis from the cleanup spot, but he would certainly bat in the middle of the order, and could provide enough right-handed power to force the hand of opposing managers down the stretch.
Thus far in 2018, Beltre is batting .288/.340/.405 with five home runs and a 97 OPS+. Those overall numbers may not jump off the page, but Beltre has been dangerous against left-handed pitching, batting .328/.382/.403. Adding Beltre to the lineup against left-handed pitchers would allow the Braves to slide Johan Camargo over to shortstop in place of Dansby Swanson, who has struggled mightily versus left-handers this season.
In the clubhouse, Beltre as long carried the reputation as one of the best teammates in baseball. His presence would give the Braves another veteran alongside the two aforementioned All-Stars, while also providing a mentor to young Spanish-speaking players such as Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña, and Camargo.
The other factor to consider with Beltre is his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the 2018 season. Though Atlanta has been rumored to prefer players with multiple years remaining under contract, a player of Beltre’s age may be more valuable as a half-season upgrade rather than as a longer-term investment. With around $6 million remaining on his deal for this season, Atlanta may be in position to absorb Beltre’s salary and keep the prospect cost to a minimum if GM Alex Anthopoulos’ recent quotes regarding payroll are to be believed.
While Beltre would seem to fit perfectly into the Braves’ plans, it remains to be seen how aggressively Texas will shop their aging star. Beltre will be 40 next April, so he is unlikely to garner a huge deal in 2019, but the nostalgia of keeping the future Hall of Fame third baseman in Texas until he retires may prevent an agreement from being reached. The other hurdle would be convincing Beltre to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to leave the club that saw him reach the World Series in 2011, win three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger Awards, and collect his 3000th hit.
Putting emotion aside, Texas may be willing to deal Beltre in the coming days. If so, his bat would be a welcome addition to a Braves lineup that is currently heavy on left-handed bats in the middle. His age and injury situation may give the Braves pause, but a healthy Adrian Beltre would be exactly the type of low-risk acquisition that may be more prudent for Atlanta than spending large prospect capital on younger, higher-profile players. Make this happen Atlanta, because even if the club may not be ready to go all-in on this season, adding Adrian Beltre can only help a young team find direction in the final months of 2018.