Remembering Beltré's banner year in Boston

January 11th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne's Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When third baseman Adrián Beltré is elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot on Jan. 23 -- and it seems inevitable he will -- the Red Sox aren’t going to come to the forefront of the minds of most.

After all, Beltre played just one of his 21 seasons in Boston.

But it should be noted that 2010 was an important springboard season in the marvelous career of Beltré, one in which he regained his swagger and started the momentum for a mid- to late-career surge.

During the Hot Stove period that led into the 2010 season, Beltré was just trying to find a landing spot where he could earn in the neighborhood of what he felt he was worth.

It wasn’t easy following what was arguably the worst offensive season of Beltré’s career in 2009, his fifth and final season in Seattle.

Two significant injuries (left shoulder surgery, right testicle contusion) conspired to limit the right-handed hitter to 111 games and 477 plate appearances during which he slashed .265/.304/.379 with eight homers and 44 RBIs. His .683 OPS marked the only season of his career he was sub.-700 except for 1998, when Beltré was a 19-year-old rookie and played 77 games.

The Red Sox gained from Beltre’s down year in Seattle, signing him to a one-year, $9 million contract.

Agent Scott Boras memorably called it a “pillow contract,” one that would allow Beltré to sleep comfortably at night while restoring his career.

It was a deal both sides benefited greatly from.

Beltré was energized from the very start of his time with the Red Sox, playing in 154 games and leading the Majors with 49 doubles while also contributing 189 hits, 28 homers and 102 RBIs. This, to go along with a glittering batting line of .321/.365/.553 while playing tremendous defense all season at third base.

It wasn’t just the numbers that made Beltré a fan favorite during his one-and-done season with the Red Sox, but he also charmed with his charisma.

Red Sox Nation couldn’t help but love watching Beltré go down to one knee at times to hit a home run. Or the way he would playfully swipe at any teammate who patted his head in the dugout.

Beltré played hard, and he played hurt, and he ran the bases with abandon.

The only negative was that Boston didn’t get to experience a postseason run with Beltré.

That team was decimated by injuries to key players Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury but still managed to win 89 games.

A huge fan of the Red Sox experience, Beltré wanted to extend with the club on much more than a pillow contract.

It was not to be. When general manager Theo Epstein pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Padres for first baseman Adrián Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis moved across the diamond to third base.

That left Beltré without a spot in Boston. He found out the Sox had landed Gonzalez during David Ortiz's charity golf tournament in the Dominican Republic. Beltré was notably downcast about it when reporters caught up with him at the event to get his reaction.

It is easy to second-guess the move in hindsight because Gonzalez -- who didn’t relish the Boston experience nearly as much as Beltré -- lasted fewer than two seasons with the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, Beltré left for Texas on a six-year, $96 million contract. He wound up playing his final eight seasons with the Rangers.

By the time his career was over, Beltré had amassed 3,166 hits, 477 homers and five Rawlings Gold Glove Awards.

Meanwhile, his time in Boston was brief but should not be forgotten.