Former Boston Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre announces his retirement

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against the New York Yankees on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against the New York Yankees on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Adrian Beltre has announced his retirement after 21 MLB seasons, prompting us to reflect on the one he spent with the Boston Red Sox.

Adrian Beltre spent over two decades in Major League Baseball until Tuesday’s retirement announcement brought a Hall of Fame-worthy career to an end. Only one of those seasons was spent with the Boston Red Sox yet that was enough to endear the veteran third baseman to this fan base.

The year was 2010. Beltre was coming off a few down seasons in Seattle where the dimensions of the Mariners’ pitcher-friendly park sapped him of the power he displayed earlier in his career. That led to the then-30-year-old signing a one-year “prove it” deal with the Red Sox.

Betting on himself paid off, as Beltre rebounded with an All-Star campaign. He hit .321 with a .919 OPS, 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a league-leading 49 doubles that season in Boston. Beltre earned a Silver Slugger at third base and finished ninth in MVP voting.

The Red Sox found themselves at a crossroads following that 2010 season. Many fans wanted to see Beltre re-signed to cover third base for the foreseeable future yet the front office was enamored with San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. With Kevin Youkilis penciled into one of the corner infield spots, there was only room for one of Beltre or Gonzalez.

Ultimately, the team settled on Gonzalez, shipping a package of prospects headlined by future star first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the Padres in exchange. As much as we hated to see Beltre leave, the move was defensible at the time. Gonzalez was similar to Beltre in that he was a multi-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner with power expected to play better at Fenway Park compared to his previous home. Gonzalez was also two years younger and on a bargain contract in that first season before the lucrative seven-year extension the Red Sox gave him kicked in.

Was it the right move in the end? Hard to say.

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Gonzalez performed admirably in his first full season in Boston, producing numbers similar to what Beltre had done the previous year. He wouldn’t pan out to be the long-term solution they hoped for but the Los Angeles Dodgers were so desperate to acquire Gonzalez that they willingly agreed to take on a quarter of a billion dollars in salary in an August 2012 blockbuster deal that allowed Boston to reset their payroll to reshape the roster. Without Gonzalez as the bait, the Dodgers never agree to take the albatross contracts of the disgruntled Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, thereby preventing that magical 2013 championship season from happening.

On the other hand, Boston struggled for years to fill the void at third base without Beltre. Youkilis struggled through injuries and age-related decline before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox midway through the 2012 season. Boston cycled through underwhelming options at the position until the ill-fated Pablo Sandoval signing. Just think, we would never have had to endure the Panda era if the Red Sox had kept Beltre on a long-term deal! The Red Sox are literally still paying for that decision, as Sandoval’s contract remains on the books for one more year.

The Red Sox have now won two World Series titles since making that decision so it seems to have turned out well regardless. Yet we can’t help but wonder what might have been with Beltre and Rizzo manning the corners of the infield over the last eight years. It’s one of the greatest “What If” stories in recent Red Sox history.

Beltre went on to finish the final eight years of his career with the Texas Rangers, where he piled up three more All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, and three Gold Glove awards.

The 21-year veteran finishes his career as the only full-time third baseman to record 3,000+ hits and 400+ home runs in his career. He joins Willie Mays as the only MLB players in history with at least 3,166 hits, 477 HR, .819 OPS, and five Gold Gloves. His 95.7 career WAR is 38th in MLB history and 26th among position players, per Baseball-Reference.

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Beltre had a stellar career that Red Sox fans are fortunate enough to have witnessed a part of. He won’t end up wearing a Red Sox cap on his plaque when he’s enshrined in Cooperstown but we’ll always remember that he was a part of this franchise.