SportsPulse: For The Win’s Ted Berg breaks down top free agents, possible trades and potential rule changes this offseason. USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Beltran’s two-decade run as one of Major League Baseball’s most dynamic talents officially came to a close Monday when the nine-time All-Star outfielder announced he will retire.
Beltran, 40, will go out a champion: He hit 14 home runs for the Houston Astros this season before they went on to win their first World Series title.
Yet his final act – which was anticipated, but finally confirmed Monday in a posting on The Players’ Tribune – hardly sums up a career that will likely culminate in his induction to baseball’s Hall of Fame five years from now.
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A native of Puerto Rico, Beltran belted 435 home runs, stole 312 bases and had a lifetime on base plus slugging of .835 – much of it while manning center field, for which he earned three Gold Glove awards.
He was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year for the Kansas City Royals, and led both the Astros (in his first go-round) and New York Mets to within one game of pennants in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
Beltran did not reach the World Series until 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost in six games to the Boston Red Sox. He also played three seasons with the New York Yankees and partial seasons with the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers following midseason trades.
His finest season likely came when he was first traded: June 2004, from the Royals to the Astros. Beltran finished with 38 home runs, 104 RBI and a .915 OPS. It was an MVP-worthy campaign, but since Beltran split time between the AL and NL, he only garnered a 12th-place finish in NL voting.
That was merely the prelude to a phenomenal postseason: Beltran hit four home runs in both the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series, as the Astros vanquished the Atlanta Braves before losing a seven-game thriller to the Cardinals.
The performance only stoked the market for his services that off-season and Beltran cashed in, signing a seven-year, $119 million deal with the Mets. His years with the Mets were productive, as he hit 149 home runs, posted an .869 OPS and made five All-Star games.
But he often bore the brunt of the teams’ failings, as he was dogged by knee injuries and the Mets suffered a pair of epic September collapses to cede control of the NL East to the Philadelphia Phillies. Even his brilliant 2006 season – when he hit 41 homers, produced a .982 OPS and finished fourth in NL MVP voting – was framed in a light of failure when Beltran was caught looking at strike three on the final pitch of Game 7 in the 2006 NLCS.
Over time, however, Beltran’s regard among peers only grew as he got longer in the tooth; his low-key demeanor and strong instincts for the game made him a valued teammate, while his bat remained productive. Even at 39, he hit 29 home runs and posted an .850 OPS for the Rangers and Yankees in 2016.
This year, his most memorable moments with the Astros included a “funeral” the club held for his glove, since he had assumed a nearly full-time DH role. Yet he was a key mentor for emerging superstar Carlos Correa and, as he noted in his Players’ Tribune posting, thanked the Astros for the chance to go out with such a memorable group.
“This is and always will be my response when someone thanks me for what I’ve done in this game,” he wrote. “Because I am so eternally grateful.”
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