For a team with many question marks, one position stands out as a gaping hole to fill for the 2019 Texas Rangers – third base.
Team captain and likely future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltré retired on Nov. 20. With him left years of laughs and leadership, but maybe more importantly, a steady, productive bat- and one of the best gloves that Major League Baseball had to offer at “the hot corner.”
Frankly, it will be strange to see anyone but Beltré manning third for Texas. According to Baseball Reference, since signing with the team in the 2011 he started 941 of a possible 1,296 possible games for the team – 73 percent of the games in that span. That number includes two injury-plagued 2017 and 2018 campaigns which saw him start less than 70 games in the field each year.
The page is turned on the Beltré era. But for 2019, instead of longing for a fixture of his caliber, the Rangers will likely insert a “stop gap” at third over any long-term option. There’s a wide variety of options Texas can pursue.
Texas traded for St. Louis minor-league journeyman and fringe-MLB third baseman Patrick Wisdom in December. He is the clear front-runner to win the position among current talent on the 40-man roster.
Wisdom proved to be a solid offensive player in a brief 32-game MLB stint with the Cardinals in 2018, but his lack of defensive experience is an issue- he has only 13 career starts at third.
Versatile fan-favorite Isiah Kiner-Falefa has experience playing the position at the minor league level, but the Rangers have made it clear that he will serve primarily as a backup catcher in 2019. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of a platoon between he and Wisdom at third, but the physical toll that playing catcher takes might.
Outfielder Joey Gallo came to the majors as a third baseman and in 2015, but has made it clear that he doesn’t want to play the position- and Texas is obliging him.
Free Agent Options
There’s a glaring top-player still available on the free agent market at the time of publication that would fill this need for Texas: former Baltimore superstar Manny Machado.
But after the Chicago White Sox offered him a 8-year, $250 million contract last week, there is very little chance that a rebuilding team like Texas would offer anything near that amount of money.
Nonetheless, there are realistic options for the Rangers in free agency.
The biggest name among that pool is former Kansas City star Mike Moustakas, who was traded to Milwaukee in July. However, as Spring Training approaches, he will likely be pursued by a contender- meaning Texas will need to outbid any interested teams.
Former Houston utility man Marwin Gonzalez is on a similar boat. More so than Moustakas, he seems like a fit worth spending for Texas. He can easily play all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Even if he brings less to the table offensively than Moustakas, this would be of extreme value to a young team like the Rangers.
Cheaper options include former Pittsburgh All-Star Josh Harrison- who is a plus offensive player, and can man second base. Texas is also rumored to have interest in former Yankee switch-hitter Chase Headley, who would likely sign for a minor league contract.
No matter which direction Texas takes, it’s a new era in Arlington with Beltré out the door, and it will be interesting to see if a new fixture takes the hot corner by the reigns.
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