Texas Rangers

Who would take over at third if Beltre retires this year? Rangers already have one candidate

Jurickson Profar has played most of his games this season at shortstop and was at first base Tuesday. But he could be their starter at third base next season if Adrian Beltre retires.
Jurickson Profar has played most of his games this season at shortstop and was at first base Tuesday. But he could be their starter at third base next season if Adrian Beltre retires. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

As the trade deadline approached eight days ago, the question no one could answer was if Adrian Beltre intends to play in 2019.

One former teammate quietly said earlier this season that Beltre told him 2018 would be his last season. Another former teammate scoffed at that and is convinced Beltre has one more season left in him.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels didn’t have an answer because Beltre himself couldn’t provide an answer.

Coincidentally, perhaps, one name that did not surface in the trade rumor mill was Jurickson Profar. Maybe the Rangers simply told the teams that did call that Profar wasn’t available.

They actually need him, even if Beltre doesn’t retire.

In a season in which the Rangers needed to learn about many players, they have learned that Profar can play third base every day next season or, as he has done often this season, play there multiple times a week if Beltre were to receive more games at designated hitter in his age-40 season.

“Whatever they might put me, I’m ready for it,” Profar said. “This year I’m playing everywhere and trying to do my best to help the team. Next year, I don’t know what’s the plan yet, but I’m going to do my best.”

Profar has spent the bulk of the season at shortstop, where he filled in for two months while Elvis Andrus was out with a broken right arm. Profar made his 10th start at first base Tuesday night against the Seattle Mariners, and has also logged starts at third (17) and second (eight).

No other MLB player can match his number of games played at all four infield spots, and to have a player with that versatility is highly coveted and in many ways invaluable.

Odor was injured. Profar stepped in.

Andrus was injured. Profar stepped in.

Beltre needs a day off or a game at DH. Profar steps in.

Rookie first baseman Ronald Guzman goes into a slump. Profar steps in.

That’s how he has amassed 100 games this season, shattering his previous career-high of 90. And he’s still only 25 years old.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has also played third base, more than Profar after subbing for Beltre while Profar was subbing for Andrus. Kiner-Falefa can play shortstop and second, as well, but he is also being groomed as a catcher.

If the roster composition is the same next season, Profar’s role likely won’t change. He’ll play every day, but not at one position.

“He’s essentially playing every day for us,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “The value of him and the ability to play around allows me to rotate some of those guys within that set of positions. The more he’s played, the more he’s shown us the ability to do those things; it’s valuable if the roster is such that you need a guy like that.”

The Rangers are also facing some uncertainty at shortstop. Andrus can opt out of his contract after this season, which seems unlikely after he missed 59 games in the first half, and after next season.

Shortstop is Profar’s favorite position and the position where he believes he plays the best. He said next is third base, largely because it’s on the same side of the diamond.

He isn’t content with how he has played defensively, committing 18 errors. Most have been on throws, though he claims the arm that cost him two seasons in 2014 and 2015 is as good as ever.

Profar is confident again, too, and that has helped fuel him this season.

“I always knew I could be a good player, but not playing makes you doubt that a little bit,” he said. “This year, thank God, I’ve played a lot and been able to find myself, and I’m trying to find way to try to get better. I think I still have a lot to improve.”

Profar wants to be better, and the belief is he can be better at the plate and in the field. Offensively, he has hit in eight of the nine spots in the order, has established career-highs in homers and RBIs, and carried a .444 slugging percentage into Tuesday.

Along the way, he has convinced the Rangers that he can be their everyday third baseman in 2019 if Beltre steps away.

“How he’s been able to play different positions and hit in different spots in the lineup and still produce ... but he’s been doing it,” Andrus said. “He’s that talented. He knows he can get better. For him to be back this year is amazing. I think that’s just the beginning of how good he is as a player.”

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