Designated hitter/right fielder Carlos Beltran said Tuesday that he plans to come back in 2017 for his age-40 season, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com (Twitter link). Whether the impending free agent will return to the Rangers is up in the air, but he hopes to re-sign with the club.
Beltran spent the majority of 2016 with the Yankees, whom he signed with prior to the 2014 campaign, before they dealt him to Texas at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. After beginning the year an outstanding .304/.344/.546 with 22 home runs in 387 plate appearances with the Yankees, Beltran cooled off significantly as a member of the Rangers. In 206 post-deadline PAs, he batted .280/.325/.451 with seven homers. Still, as he has typically done throughout what might be a Hall of Fame career, Beltran posted an easily above-average .295/.337/.513 line in 593 trips to the plate. As a result, he could pique hitter-needy teams’ interest in free agency.
Given his age and defensive limitations, Beltran surely won’t do as well as the three-year, $45MM deal he inked last time he hit the open market. It also won’t help Beltran’s earning power that a return to the DH-less National League, where he previously played with the Mets, Giants and Cardinals, is likely out of the question. Beltran’s coming off a season in which he worked more as a DH (73 games) than as an outfielder (67) for the second time since 2014. Beltran’s recent subpar work in the grass justifies his bat-first role, as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved have graded him as a minus outfielder over the past several seasons.
It’s merely speculation, but contenders like the Indians, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Astros are among those that could pursue Beltran during the offseason if he doesn’t re-sign with the Rangers. Along with Houston, one of his ex-employers, both Boston and Cleveland went after Beltran at the deadline. The Red Sox are set to enter the post-David Ortiz era at DH, while the Jays are in danger of losing both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista in free agency. The same is true for the Indians and Mike Napoli. The Astros have a DH option on hand in Evan Gattis, though he could become their everyday catcher if fellow backstop Jason Castro signs elsewhere.