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Texas Rangers rumors: Adrian Beltre return imminent?

Per the beat guys, Adrian Beltre could be back this week, creating a potential playing time crunch

Detroit Tigers v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Texas Rangers rumors: Adrian Beltre was running the bases yesterday at Safeco Field before the Rangers’ game against the Seattle Mariners, and per the beats, Beltre could be activated from the disabled list in the next few days.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Beltre’s return could complicate playing time and roster decisions for the Rangers.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Rangers’ current bench players are Ryan Rua, Hanser Alberto and Carlos Perez, and presumably, one of those players will go down when Beltre returns. It won’t be Perez unless the Rangers are ready to have Isiah Kiner-Falefa start catching in the minors, which, while theoretically possible, seems extraordinarily unlikely. That leaves Rua and Alberto.

Rua is currently the backup outfielder who also starts against some lefthanded hitters. He started the season as the regular left fielder, lost his job, and has been largely relegated to a bench role since. He’s also not really a true backup centerfielder, although the Rangers started him in center field when they needed to give Delino DeShields a day off.

Alberto is currently the utility infielder. Theoretically, he would be the most likely candidate to be sent down, as Beltre is a third baseman and IKF would be assuming the utility infielder role. However, Beltre is expected to play a fair amount of DH when he returns, and if he’s the DH and IKF is in the starting lineup, it means no real backup infielder on the bench — other than maybe Rua, who has played some second base and third base in the past, but isn’t likely to be viewed as a terribly palatable option at either position.

Of course, you could say the same thing about Rua playing center field.

What makes this more difficult is that Shin-Soo Choo is currently the regular DH. Playing Beltre at DH more often means either sitting Choo -- who has been one of the Rangers’ best hitters this season — or playing him in the outfield. He’s only an outfield option at right field, however, which would mean either sitting Nomar Mazara or moving Mazara to left field. Moving Mazara to left field would mean either moving Joey Gallo to third base, which neither he nor the team seems enthused about, moving him to first base -- meaning Ronald Guzman sits — or having him sit.

So if you send Rua or Alberto down, you’re going to end up with a lack of positional flexibility and a bunch of guys who play the same position who need at bats.

What are your other options?

Well, you could send Joey Gallo down. He’s slashing .199/.281/.468 on the season, and has a .178/.253/.467 slash line in May. But he’s also been showing some signs of life of late, and as someone you’ve theoretically committed to as one of your core starters going forward, I’m not sure if you want to send him down based on a bad start to the season, and I’m not sure if sending him down helps anything.

You could send Rougned Odor down. We all know about the Odor situation. But, as has been discussed ad nauseum, you also need to figure out now if Odor can make adjustments and handle major league pitching, and, like Gallo, he’s shown some signs of improvement on that front lately.

You could send Isiah Kiner-Falefa or Ronald Guzman down. Sending down Guzman lets you put Gallo at first base, Choo in right field, Mazara in left field, and Beltre at DH. That decision would have been easier a week or two ago, but Guzman has been on fire of late, and its harder to justify sending him down. As for IKF, could justify it as Beltre playing third base more often meaning IKF will lose playing time, and you’d rather he be playing every day, including catching, in AAA, rather than sitting on the bench a lot in the majors. But he’s also been a spark for the team and fans may riot if he goes down.

And that’s before getting into the fact that Carlos Tocci’s rehab assignment ends this weekend, and he will either have to be activated (at which point he will be the backup outfielder, and someone else will have to be sent down), or waived and offered back to the Phillies. But if the Rangers plan on keeping him around, whichever one of Rua or Alberto didn’t get sent down (if one of them is sent down for Beltre) gets sent down for Tocci.

And of course, Elvis Andrus is expected to be back sometime in June, reducing playing time even more for the current infielders and necessitating another roster decision.

Its a nice problem that Ronald Guzman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are playing well enough that you’d like to keep them up. Its not a nice problem that Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor are having the types of seasons where their performance hasn’t made keeping them in the lineup everyday the obvious, non-negotiable choice.

And at some point in the next couple of days, we’ll find out how the Rangers choose to juggle things.