The idea of making a trade in August is always a fun one, because it’s not the typical time for trades. And the idea of making a trade in August for a future Hall of Famer is always a fun one, because, well, we follow this sport to enjoy ourselves, and that’s just something that sounds fun.
So I’ll grant some level of completely uninformed “ooooooh fun!” when I read Jon Heyman’s latest on the guys who could be traded this month, which included this line about Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre: “While it was thought he’d be unlikely to accept a trade to the Braves, the chances are believed better that he’d approve either the Cubs or his old Red Sox team, whose respective third basemen Kris Bryant and Rafael Devers have battled injuries.”
I love Adrian Beltre! He has been so ridiculous good in his career and is also one of the most fun players in the game! DO ITTTTTTTT!
… OK. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I have to ground things a little. For one, Kris Bryant is not expected to be out for the rest of the season – or even, necessarily, the rest of the month. Picking up a guy like Beltre would make a lot more sense if there was serious doubt about Bryant’s ability to return in September and October. Since we’ve not been given that indication, I won’t go there.
For another thing, David Bote has filled in excellently in Bryant’s absence. No, that alone wouldn’t be a reason not to grab a quality bat if you felt you needed to cover further for Bryant being gone, but it does make it feel a lot less urgent.
For still another thing, Beltre, 39, has been injured and largely ineffective this year – as an upgrade type anyway – hitting just .280/.336/.390 with a 93 wRC+ (with half his games in one of the most offense-friendly ballparks, that slash line is not particularly impressive).
For still another thing, Beltre is owed about $5 million the rest of the way, which would push the Cubs right up to (and maybe slightly past) the luxury tax cap for the season, and they simply aren’t going to do that. Moreover, sure, he could take Bote’s spot on the roster right now – if you even wanted to do that – but then you’d have a real roster crunch/problem if Bryant was ready to return before September 1.
There are simply a lot of headwinds here that aren’t overcome by the fact that Adrian Beltre’s name is Adrian Beltre.
On the other side of things, here’s a consideration: because Beltre has no-trade rights, because of the salary, because of the late juncture in the season, and because of his down production/injuries, the acquisition cost on Beltre would be just about nothing. And the Cubs and Rangers have already made multiple deals in that tier this season, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a trade fit.
Once you get to September, there’s plenty of room for him on the roster, too, even if Bryant returns soon thereafter. And if the trade didn’t happen until later in the month, the remaining salary keeps ticking down, too. And also, although his overall line is down, he’s still putting up a ton of hard contact. Also, what if Bryant comes back and gets hurt again? Or doesn’t come back? What if the league adjusts to Bote in a way he can’t quite adjust back to before the season ends?
I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
I’m not going to say it’s an obvious move – it’s pretty unlikely for all the reasons originally discussed – but it wouldn’t necessarily be so bonkers as to not even merit a mention. And it sure would be fun.
UPDATING for a logistical issue that just occurred to me: Beltre’s no-trade rights also apply to waiver claims. So, if Beltre were on waivers right now, why wouldn’t the Brewers claim him to block the Cubs, knowing that he would refuse to allow the Rangers to let him go to the Brewers? Easy, safe block for the Brewers without seriously risking any money.