Striking to tighten their grip on the AL West, the Rangers are close to a deal with free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre that will lock him up in Texas for the next six years, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The deal with Texas appears just about done, with one of the last remaining steps a physical examination for Beltre. Assuming no problems there, the Rangers are expected to announce what is believed to be a six-year, $96 million deal for Beltre, probably later this week.
As second choices go, there are far worse.
Though Texas swung and missed at this winter's free agent plum, Cliff Lee, the Rangers still will accomplish part of their winter goal of strengthening their pitching staff simply by adding Beltre, 31, a two-time Gold Glove winner and recognized as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.
Multiple reports out of Texas suggest that All-Star Michael Young, the incumbent third baseman, has agreed to shift to designated hitter to make room for Beltre. That is just another testament to as classy and as professional a player as there is in the game: This will be Young's fourth position change in the past decade.
He moved from shortstop to second base when the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez, went back to shortstop after A-Rod was traded, then shifted over to third base to make room for then-rookie Elvis Andrus two summers ago.
Now, Young again will be displaced by a personnel move. However, anybody who has watched the Rangers, particularly in the postseason last year, would agree that Young struggled defensively at third base at times. In the World Series against San Francisco in particular, a handful of balls got by Young that cost the Rangers.
With Beltre at third, the infield defensive immediately will improve (and with Andrus at short, the Rangers will field as talented and entertaining a left side of the infield as there is in the game). And with Young at DH and perhaps spelling various infielders at times during the brutally hot Texas summer, the Rangers will retain their team leader, a guy who long ago became the heart and soul of the clubhouse.
Beltre, after going quiet with the bat in Seattle's huge Safeco Field during his time there, re-emerged offensively last summer in Boston. He hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBI. His 49 doubles led the league, while his .365 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage both were close to career highs for the 13-year veteran.
The move at the same time improves Texas -- even though last year's DH, Vladimir Guerrero, now is not expected back -- while striking another blow to the beleaguered Los Angeles Angels. Texas' chief AL West rivals also were trying to lure Beltre, who becomes the latest free agent to decline the Angels' money.
Los Angeles also took a strong run at Carl Crawford earlier this winter before he signed with Boston, and the Angels held talks with Lee before he signed with Philadelphia.