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Adrian Beltre strengthens already-strong Hall of Fame case with 3,000th hit

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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre just notched his 3,000th hit, which puts him in rarefied air. He’s the 31st player in baseball history to join the 3,000-hit club and only the second third baseman (having played at least 75 percent of his career games at the position) to do so along with Wade Boggs. This didn’t exactly sneak up on us; coming into the season, Beltre’s milestone was bound to happen as long as he stayed relatively healthy, entering the year with 2,942 hits. He got there despite missing the first two months of the season with a strained right calf.

Though achieving 3,000 hits garners a tremendous amount of respect, it still seems like he’s underrated. It’s not just the hits that make him good, it’s the power. He has 454 homers and 605 doubles in his career. The only other players with at least 400 homers and 600 doubles are Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, and Cal Ripken, Jr. All Hall of Famers, or should-be Hall of Famers.

Defense still isn’t nearly as easily quantified as offense, which may help explain why Beltre flies under the radar much of the time. He’s a five-time Gold Glove Award winner and that seems light. He won one last year at the age of 37, becoming the oldest player to win the award since Brooks Robinson in 1975. In doing so, Beltre had to beat out arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball in Manny Machado.

How much has defense added to Beltre’s value? According to Baseball Reference, he’s saved 227 runs above average over his career, adding about 28 wins. As a result, Beltre has 92.4 career Wins Above Replacement. He’s one of 28 players in baseball history with at least 90 WAR. Only four of those 28 are third basemen: Mike Schmidt (106.6), Eddie Mathews (96.2), Beltre, and Boggs (91.1).

What also makes Beltre stand out is how productive he’s been while aging. Everyone remembers his 48-homer season back in 2004 as a 25-year-old with the Dodgers. While he never quite matched that season, he has overall been more productive in his 30’s than when he was younger. From age 19 to 29, he hit .271/.327/.459 with 242 home runs and 862 RBI in 6,400 plate appearances (HR every 26.4 PA and an RBI every 7.42 PA). From age 30 to 38, he hit .305/.355/.507 with 211 home runs and 740 RBI in 5,055 plate appearances (HR every 24 PA and an RBI every 6.8 PA). Beltre accrued 41.2 WAR through age 29 and 51.2 WAR since.

Last season, at 37, Beltre hit 32 homers and knocked in 104 runs. There are only 21 other player-seasons since 1901 in which a player hit at least 30 homers and drove in at least 100 runs at age 37 or older. The list includes Alfonso Soriano, Andres Galarraga, Babe Ruth (twice), Barry Bonds (twice), Carlton Fisk, David Ortiz (four times), Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas, Fred McGriff (twice), Hank Aaron, Hank Sauer, Mike Schmidt, Moises Alou, and Rafael Palmeiro (twice). If we add another constraint, 30 doubles (Beltre had 31 last season), the list shrinks to nine. Of those nine, only five also hit .300 or better and Beltre was one of those five.

Beltre is having yet another strong season. Entering today’s action, he was hitting .310/.387/.538. He doesn’t and won’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, it’s still impressive. Since the mound was lowered in 1969, there are only 18 player-seasons in which a player 38 years old or older hit .300 or better with enough PA to qualify for the batting title. Barry Bonds, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, Eddie Murray, and Jeff Kent are the only players to slash .300/.375/.500 or better at the age of 38 or older.

In Hall of Fame discussions, players are often referred to as having been compilers, meaning that they played a lot of seasons, giving them more opportunities to add to their counting stats. Beltre played 20 seasons, which is longer than most players, even All-Star-caliber players. But Beltre wasn’t just a compiler. In 10 of those 20 seasons, he accrued at least five WAR which is typically an All-Star-caliber season and often enough to propel one into MVP discussions. Beltre racked up at least seven WAR in four seasons as well. He had both peak and longevity, which is typical of inner circle Hall of Famers.

Savor witnessing Beltre’s 3,000th hit, folks. You are witnessing not just one of the best third basemen of all time, but one of the best players, period. He’ll be properly enshrined in Cooperstown soon enough.

Mets trade Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers

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The Mets traded centerfielder Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers for cash considerations or a player to be named later, the teams announced late Friday night. Granderson was rumored to be drawing interest from teams earlier in the week, and found a landing place after slashing .256/.360/.721 since the start of the month. In a corresponding move, the Dodgers designated right-hander Dylan Floro for assignment to clear roster space for the outfielder.

As a whole, the 36-year-old’s 2017 campaign has been a tad underwhelming. Granderson entered Saturday batting .228/.334/.481 with 19 home runs and an .815 OPS through 395 PA, and accrued 1.7 fWAR to the 5.1 fWAR he produced during his pennant-winning, MVP-contending season in 2015. Still, with under $4 million remaining on his contract, another 20+ homer season around the corner and the defensive chops to man center field, it looks like a prudent deal for the Dodgers as they continue to bulldoze their way to the playoffs this fall.

The club has yet to outline their plans for Granderson, but his addition to a crowded outfield could displace centerfielder Joc Pederson, who turned in a meager .214/.329/.415 batting line through 292 PA in 2017. It could also have ramifications for fellow veteran Andre Ethier, assuming he’s healthy enough to compete for a starting role when he comes off the 60-day disabled list in September. The Mets, meanwhile, are expected to lean more heavily on rookie outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who’s made just five starts this season after struggling to get consistent playing time on the field.

Corey Kluber exits game with right ankle sprain

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Indians’ right-hander Corey Kluber was removed from the sixth inning of his start on Friday night, bringing a streak of 14 starts with 8+ strikeouts to an unfortunate end after he sprained his right ankle. Kluber stumbled off the mound while trying to field a base hit from Eric Hosmer and was seen visibly limping as he moved to cover first base. He was allowed to stay in the game for one more batter, but quickly yielded a three-pitch single to Melky Cabrera and left the mound with head athletic trainer James Quinlan.

It was a poor ending to another strong outing by the right-hander, who delivered 5 1/3 innings of one-run, four-strikeout ball and took his 12th win of the season after the Indians amassed a nine-run lead. Postgame comments by Cleveland skipper Terry Francona suggest that Kluber isn’t facing a serious setback after sustaining the sprain, however, and might even be good to go by the time his next start comes around on Wednesday.

While the Royals escaped Friday’s loss without injury, the 10-1 drubbing pushed them 6.5 games back of the division lead and half a game behind the Twins and Angels for the second AL wild card berth. They’ll host a rematch on Saturday at 7:15 ET, with left-hander Jason Vargas set to face off against Indians’ righty Trevor Bauer.