Those guys, the fantasy knuckleheads, the ones that everyone in your league keeps getting trade proposals from in the middle of the night, they all want the Texas Rangers to trade him.Trade Adrian Beltre for a largess of Mark Teixeira proportions. Trade him for some team’s next young Kershaw, plus the next new Trout.Trade him now, they keep saying. After all, as we learned Sunday night, Beltre is an All-Star. You bet he is, and that’s exactly why the Rangers need to politely hang up the phone this month when the real-life trade-niks come calling about him.Beltre is not an All-Star for the fourth time because somebody staged a ballot-punching campaign in Los Angeles or Milwaukee. He’s certainly not there because he has an edgy, cockatoo hair style and his team is the MLB flavor of the month. Beltre was voted onto the American League team as a backup in the old-fashioned way — by his peers, the guys who play alongside him and against him. As Rangers manager Ron Washington said before Sunday’s announcements, “How can you not take Beltre?”Beltre is hitting .333, second in the league, despite the “conditions” — that was Wash’s word to describe it — that the third baseman has had to play under this season. Wash wasn’t talking about the weather.“I think this is his finest year,” Washington said to our paper’s Jeff Wilson after Sunday’s loss to the Mets. “He’s the one constant we’ve had through all the adversity.”In the four seasons since signing a five-year, $80 million free-agent contract with the Rangers, Beltre has batted .315 with 345 RBIs and an .898 OPS. Best Rangers free-agent signing ever? Considering that the initial payoff was a return trip to the World Series in 2011, certainly yes.The Alex Rodriguez $252 million signing proved to be more impactful, for mostly all the wrong reasons. But add Beltre’s contributions, both offensively and defensively, to the fact that if the Rangers hadn’t signed him in January 2011, the Angels probably would have, and the argument is moot.The franchise needs Beltre as much now, though, as it did three years ago. The Rangers, whether or not they are flying a white flag yet for this season, are at a crossroads. Unforeseen injuries have decimated what was expected to be a stable future pitching rotation. Their highest-paid player had season-ending surgery. Their biggest (and costliest) free-agent acquisition has been playing despite an ankle injury.Beyond Yu Darvish, the team’s other All-Star selection, the rotation for next season is riddled with question marks. That’s the crossroads.But you don’t wreck one road to forge down another. Beltre for a starting pitcher? It had better be a guaranteed four-time All-Star one.One day, Joey Gallo will be the team’s starting third baseman. But the slugging 20-year-old hasn’t even been at Double A Frisco an entire month. Gallo’s time will come. But until he shows everyone that he’s a better third baseman than Beltre, Adrian needs to remain at third base.Beltre’s contract will pay him $18 million in 2015, and there’s a voidable option for $16 million in 2016 if he doesn’t have at least 1,200 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015 combined (or less than 600 in 2015 alone). The option was meant to be an injury escape clause for the Rangers. But now it looks like a bargain.Forget the trade offers for Beltre. Teams need to keep their future Hall of Famers, which is precisely the path that Adrian Beltre is on.All evidence suggests that he can lead a team through a crossroads.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton