Scouting The Free Agent Market: Carlos Beltran

Sorting through the Yankees' top trade chips
What Went Wrong: Derek Jeter

On paper, the Yankees currently have four outfielders for three spots. In reality, they have two outfielders for three spots. Both Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells took advantage of the opportunity to show they are no longer everyday Major League players this past season and New York will spend a chunk of the winter looking for an upgrade, especially now that Curtis Granderson has declined the qualifying offer.

The Yankees have already been connected to Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, the offseason’s two best free agent outfielders, and they also have interest in the veteran Carlos Beltran. That interest in expected to be mutual, unsurprisingly. Beltran has shown an eagerness to play for Bombers in the past, most notably offering to sign with them at a discount prior to 2005. He also came to the team at the last minute and gave them an opportunity to match the deal he eventually took from the Cardinals prior to 2012. I thought Beltran was a perfect fit before 2005 but not so much before 2012. What about now? Let’s break his game down.

The Pros

  • Despite his age, Beltran remains an effective hitter from both sides of the plate. He hit .296/.339/.491 (132 wRC+) overall this past season, broken down into a 144 wRC+ against righties and a 102 wRC+ against lefties. Over the last three seasons, it’s .288/.356/.503 (137 wRC+) overall and a 140 wRC+ against righties compared to a 128 wRC+ against southpaws. His overall strikeout (16.6% since 2011) and walk (9.6%) rates are both better than average as well.
  • Beltran has answered some serious questions about his durability in recent years, playing in 140+ games in each of the last three seasons and 438 of 486 games overall since 2011. That includes the last two in the DH-less NL. He’s recovered well after only playing 145 of 324 possible games from 2009-2010.
  • As you surely know, Beltran is arguably the best postseason hitter of his generation. He’s a career .333/.445/.683 (196 wRC+) hitter with 16 homers in 219 plate appearances across 51 playoff games. In October, Beltran is basically Babe Ruth (career 197 wRC+). That’ll be helpful if New York gets back to the postseason.

The Cons

  • Beltran’s walk rate (6.3%) this year was his lowest since his rookie season by a decent margin. He swung at 31.0% of pitches out of the zone, a career-high since the data started being recorded in 2007. Beltran’s out-of-zone swing rate has actually increased every year since 2009. He’s trending the wrong way and, not coincidentally, is at an age when hitters start their swing earlier to compensate for lost bat speed.
  • Once a historically great base-runner, Beltran is no longer a threat to steal bases and he’s only league average when it comes to taking the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.). Once upon a time he was a lock for 30+ steals a year, but that part of his game is long gone.
  • Beltran’s defense has slipped as well. His reads off the bat are still good but his range and arm have really declined. His defensive numbers since moving to right field full-time in 2011 are pretty bad: -2 DRS, -20.1 UZR, -7.1 FRAA, and -22 Total Zone.
  • He has stayed healthy these last three years, but Beltran had major knee right knee surgery in 2010 — he actually had an arthroscopic procedure instead of microfracture surgery against the Mets’ wishes — and still deals with regular soreness. Beltran has been on the DL once in the last three years but day-to-day ailments are fairly common.
  • Beltran declined the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, so teams will have to forfeit a high draft pick to sign him. For the Yankees, that means surrendering the 18th overall selection.

According to Tim Brown, Beltran is seeking a three or four-year contract this winter and that’s just not happening. It shouldn’t, anyway, especially from the Yankees. He’ll turn 37 soon after Opening Day and he’s got a bad knee. It’s not a matter of if he’ll become a full-time DH, but when. It could easily be this season. I was thinking more along the lines of two years and $30M, a $2M per year raise over the contract he signed with the Cardinals to essentially account for market inflation. Teams have lots of money to spend and he has no reason to settle for one year.

The drop in walk rate — it’s worth noting Beltran’s strikeout rate did not increase at all this year — is a concern to me only because it might mean his bat speed is really starting to slip. The now poor defense and general age-related concerns are another red flag, plus giving up a high draft pick would stink. Beltran is, however, a big upgrade over the team’s current right field options and his switch-hitting power bat would fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees lineup. The question is whether he wants to come to the Bronx at this point. I’m guessing one of Beltran’s top priorities this winter is joining a team that gives him a strong chance to win a World Series and he simply might not believe New York can give him that opportunity. He’d be a solid pickup on a two-year contract but Beltran’s demands might throw a wrench into things.

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Sorting through the Yankees' top trade chips
What Went Wrong: Derek Jeter
  • Preston

    Carlos Beltran was a diminished player this season. I think there is something to the fact that having DH days in the AL might make him more productive, but I still wouldn’t give him more than two years. If we’re spending big on an OF, I’d rather just keep Granderson who can play the OF everyday and hang onto the 18th pick. Although if we sign Mcann then Beltran would be costing a second rounder and letting Grandy walk would net us a higher pick, which changes the calculus slightly. Still all things being equal I’d rather have Curtis back.

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      Nope. Good player, but there’s gotta be a less expensive & healthier alternative. 2014 isn’t the be all, but 2015 & beyond is.

  • mitch

    I’m honestly not that interested in Beltran. All things equal, i’d rather have Granderson.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      Except all things aren’t equal…

      All things being equal, I’d rather be king.

      • mitch

        The interesting thing about free agent discussions are that we won’t the price of a player until after they’ve signed.

      • OldYanksFan

        And if the Queen had balls… she would be King.

  • I’m One

    Agree with what those above me have written. Sure he’s an upgrade, but that’s primarily looking at the situation after Granderson has left. Outside of the strikeouts, Granderson probably offers more to the team. And I really don’t like giving up a first round draft pick for a 37 year old player.

    I do also agree, however, that if the McCann is signed, my dislike for this move is slightly lowered.

    • mitch

      Definitely agree on the McCann comment. If Beltran is the fourth FA signing behind Cano, Tanaka, and McCann i’d be happy. If it’s Cano + Beltran + stay under 189 I’ll have a hard time getting excited for the season.

  • Blake

    Could have signed the guy twice before and waited until he was 37 to have interest…..joke almost writes itself

    • http://www.draftstreet.com/register.aspx?r=Jedile Jedile

      The Yankees like the Veteran Presents?

    • Dr. Grenaldine

      The Yankee way™

  • Dalek Jeter

    I’ve always had a player-crush on Carlos Beltran…so I’d be willing to give him an incentive based option on a 3rd year, or a mutual option…also because now that it looks like Granderson might not be coming back I’d give a lot to not have an outfield that has a platoon of Ichiro/Wells starting at any position.

    • Blake

      He’s great….HOFer and I always wanted them to sign him but the 3rd time doesn’t feel like the charm to me…..he’s 37 and his OBP has declined 3 years in a row.

      He’s getting to the age where even players that have aged well can fall off a cliff…..love the player but Id pass unless they have already lost the pick to sign somebody else and he’d take a 2 year deal.

      • Dalek Jeter

        I get the trepidation for 3,4, and 5 (fuck four or 5) years down the road…but to me because of how much better he is than the current options (Wells/Ichiro) and how much cheaper (in dollars and years) he’s going to be than a question mark like Ellsbury with his track record..I’d go with the proven Beltran for 2 to 3 years.

        • Blake

          My issue though is that while Beltran is a lot better than Ichiro etc…..jus signing him isn’t going to put this team over the top. They are more than one player away…..I’m not giving away the best pick they have had in years unless they can field a real contender.

          Now if the signed Beltran and other good players….might be different but it depends on where he fits into the overall team and plan

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            Are they really more than one player away?

            If the Yankees had had Mike Trout instead of our dreadful cast of misfit/old/hurt outfielders last year, that’s a 7 win difference, and playoffs. If we had an average CC instead of an overmatched rookie(that’s who was pitching every 5 days, right? That couldn’t have been CC), we very well could have been in the playoffs.

            There is so much uncertainty, signing Beltran, in a best case scenario, very well could put us over the edge.

            Of course, I want to maximize our odds, so I’m all on board with Tanaka and co. too.

            • blake

              yes they are more than 1 player away…..Mike Trout as good as he is didn’t make the Angels a playoff team and he wouldn’t make the Yankees one either if that’s all they did.

              They need a catcher, a left side infielder…..400+ innings in their rotation etc. The Yankees were more like a 75 win team that somehow won 85 games last year than they were a true 85 win team.

              adding Beltran to this team and nothing else isn’t going to change much….maybe make them marginally better offensively….they need more than marginal upgrades if they want to compete in 2014.

              • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

                So you don’t even remotely prescribe to WAR, or any established metrics.

                OK, apparently I’ve been off of RAB too long to realize not to get involved with you.

                But because I’m an idiot:

                They didn’t have a left side infielder this year. Either SS or 3B. They didn’t have any reliability in their rotation in the 2nd half. They didn’t have a catcher.

                And yet, they still were close to the playoffs, and very well one player away. You just said it for yourself, they “somehow” won 85 games. Of course I don’t want to rely on “somehow”, but you’re the one making definitive statements, not me.

                • blake

                  ok it’s possible that if you added Mike Trout to this team and did nothing else then they could make the playoffs….but it’s a very slim chance IMO because they’d still have no left side of the infield, no catcher, no other outfielder, and half of the rotation……

                  the Yankees Pythagorean record for 2013 was 79-83 and that’s probably closer to what they really were…..and right now several of the players that go t them to that record are either retired or unsigned.

              • Dalek Jeter

                Jim’s logic is that Trout was a 7 WAR player, and if he were to have replaced Ichiro/Wells/AAAA players (all of which were about/below replacement level) over the course of 2013 it would have lead to 7 more wins and therefore a wildcard spot.

                Also, I’m not saying “Beltran and that’s it,” that would be insanity. I really want Beltran/Choo, McCann, Tanaka, and a solid INF.

                • blake

                  I love WAR as much as the next person but it’s dangerous to just pencil in x amount of wins for a player…..and this is kinda pointless because they aren’t getting Mike Trout. When I said “one player”…..I meant people they could actually get.

                  • blake

                    Beltran was a 2 WAR player in 2013……you lose that and more just by Rivera and Pettite retiring. Andy if we’re going by WAR….the difference between Ichrio and Beltran last year was less than 1 win.

                  • Dalek Jeter

                    That’s exactly what WAR is though. If player A is X Wins Above Replacement and player B is Y wins above replacement you can say that Player A is X-Y wins better than Player B.

                    • blake

                      but it’s all on paper and you can’t just do one position if you doing it…..again we are talking about the overall team so even if you upgrade an outfield spots by a certain amount of wins…..you still have to deal with the other holes (Granderson leaving, Kuroda possibly leaving, Rivera retiring, Cano possibily leaving, Arod being gone, catcher, etc…..

                      which is why I said they are more than one player away…..WAR has been subtracted also that has to be replaced.

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      I honestly don’t think anyone disagrees here that the team is more than one player away. I absolutely think they are, at least.

                      The WAR talk is a bit of a red herring. Pieces of what all of you are saying are absolutely correct.

                      I do wish we’d leave pythag out of this. They won the games they won.

      • John webber

        Could not have said it better. Have the Yankees not learned any thing from last year? Youk,Haftner,Ichiro,Wells, what a waste of money.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Now how do the draft picks work in regards to this? With A and B players, you’d get a first round, second, or compensatory draft pick depending on their grade. How is it now? I read something that we might only get a 2nd rounder for Granderson (for signing with either the Cubs or White Sox)…but Beltran would net a first rounder…

    • mitch

      If they sign Beltran, they lose their first rounder. If someone else signs Granderson, they get a pick in between the 1st and 2nd rounds.

      • Dr. Grenaldine

        Yeah, how does that work?

    • Blake

      They don’t have type As and Type Bs anymore…..the new CBA made it so that you make a qualifying offer to players if you want draft pick compensation for them. This year the offer had to be a little over 14 million……St Louis made the offer to Beltran so if the Yanks signed him then they lose their first rounders and the pick just disappears and the draft is condensed one pick…..the cards would get a sandwich pick at the end of the first round.

      Same goes with Grandy….if he signs elsewhere then the yanks get a pick probably in the 30-35 range

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    So let me get this straight.

    It’s either:

    RAB Today: “He’s old! Don’t sign him! FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY!”
    RAB after Beltran has another good year: “WTF Stupid cashman failed again”

    Or:

    RAB Today: “Sign him! We never sign the good free agents anymore! He’s clutch! Down with 189″
    RAB after Beltran gets hurt in May: “Why do we always sign injury prone, over the hill guys way after their prime?”

    Cool. Just making sure I understand.

    • Dalek Jeter

      You got it, sir Peckerhead. However, I’m full on board the Beltran bandwagon. I have been for years.

    • I’m One

      Perfect. Those are exactly the sentiments on here.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        I’m not immune. I’d be hesitant to go full on Beltran mode, for fear of injury and age. And I’ll be right with those that regret not signing him when he has yet another good season that makes us wish we’d taken the risk.

        Of course, I can see the merits to signing him too. And I understand the inherent risk to any decision an organization makes. It’s why at the end of the day I’ll root for whoever’s on the roster, and hope that management did their due diligence.

        • Farewell Mo

          The guy has some kind of degenerative condition of his knee so if you sign him and he gets injured in May, no one should be overly surprised. Other than Granderson, who else are you going to sign for corner outfield that’s any good?

          The big money and injury risks of signing an old player are the price they have to pay for their failure to develop anything on the farm.

          • Dalek Jeter

            Choo, Beltran, Ellsbury off the top of my head.

            • FIPster Doofus

              According to Heyman, Choo is NYY’s first choice.

              http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/w.....tran-in-of

              • Dalek Jeter

                Sign me right the fuck up for Choo! I was advocating trading for and signing him last season, now that all he’s going to cost is money I’ll take it. I figured he’d be too expensive in both money and years for the Yankees though.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  My first instinct is that he’ll cost too much for simply being Choo.

                  Then again, if this is true, maybe they’re ready to bite the bullet on the celery cap. It’s Heyman, though, so this may be what Boras whispers to him during afternoon ball-fondling.

              • Eselquetodolosabe

                No draft pick cost ? Was he traded during the season ? If Choo isn’t costing a pick, bite the bullet and pay this guy. Hopefully you’ll get it back from the Arod fiasco.

    • Dr. Grenaldine

      Hey listen, I’m the only Doctor here and my prognosis is all that counts!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You forgot to tie it in to barren farm system that’s never produced anyone who is any good above AA.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Wow.

    “…Beltran’s top priorities this winter is joining a team that gives him a strong chance to win a World Series”

    I never thought that would be a knock on the Yanks instead of a positive…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Axisa is such a rascal sometimes.

    • Farewell Mo

      If that was posted by anyone other than Axisa, this thread would be 150 deep in people attacking a “troll”

      • Robinson Tilapia

        You can keep on saying that. It doesn’t make it true.

        I’d question whether actual players and internet fans view things very differently, but I wouldn’t outright call that person a “troll.”

  • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

    I fully endorse the plan to give Beltran a long term contract – at a discount – in advance of the upcoming 2005 season.

  • Jonnie Meatball

    Tell you what let’s all pass on the free agents this year and just play a bunch of misfits like in 2013 all while you talk about Rivera, Jeter, Bernie, and Andy all season long. Just keep looking in the rear view window Yankees it’s all you have been doing for some time now. Do us all a favor don’t sign anyone just put a cycle of crap out there and keep playing videos and have 40 Rivera days at the stadium. That should be a good fog machine for 2014.

  • blake

    Yes….I’d also endorse giving him a 2/24 deal prior to the start of the 2012 season.

  • Mike HC

    I wanted him in 2012. Now he is more expensive and older. I would be hesitant. I prefer focusing on re signing Granderson.

  • Farewell Mo

    I’d like to see them go all in and sign Tanaka, Garza or Kuroda, McCann and Beltran.

    That would probably require scrapping $189 and I’m not sure if they’re willing to do that though.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Is Matt Cameron still available? Can we talk about how Juan Miranda might end up being our full time DH again?

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’d rather keep Granderson…..actually, no, I’d rather sign them both and just DH Beltran, but that’s just me being greedy.

    I’d rather have Granderson for three years, but I’m not going to cry too much if it were Beltran for two.

    I also really couldn’t give a bigger shit when the team could have signed him, but didn’t, before. It didn’t happen. It’s ok. You can move on.

    • Dalek Jeter

      I’d argue that looking back, “not signing Beltran in 2005″ is up there with “signing Carl Pavano” as the biggest mistakes of the Cashman reign…but you’re right, it’s in the past.

      I can’t believe how many people prefer Granderson though…I mean I know you aren’t a member of this group R-Tills, but there were so many people complaining about all Granderson does is hit the long ball. Beltran is the perfect “all around” type hitter.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Honestly, I say fuck it and sign them both. That means I would advocate signing:

        Beltran
        Granderson
        Cano
        Kuroda
        Tanaka
        McCann
        Chavez/Reynolds
        Veras
        Feldman

        That’s too active an off-season for any team ever in baseball history, so it’s clearly just fantasy. If it’s my fantasy, though, I’ll add that I’ll sign all those players while Katy Perry blows me.

        Granderson is still younger, the very good team-player-devil-I-know, and brings a lot to the table despite his shortcomings. I will admit to being somewhat wary of age with Beltran.

        • Dalek Jeter

          Replace one of Beltran and Grandy with Choo and I’m totally on board.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            So I replace Katy Perry blowing you with Choo blowing you….wait, what did you say?

        • Jimmy

          While you’re at it, go back and sign that Ortiz fellow in 2002.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Do I get to keep Jay Buhner?

            • Jimmy

              Nah. No Buhner trade, no Seinfeld bit. Not worth it in the long run.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                The Papa George prospect trades of 25 years ago still piss me off way more than whether we signed Beltran in 2005 or not.

                Pavano/Wright was just fucking stupid, though. 2005 was a pile of stupid. Thank God for Robbie and Wang.

  • Grover

    I’d rather see the Yankees spend the money on one year of Kubel, Morse and Murphy rather than Beltran, Choo or Ellsbury. Then again, the Yankees currently have two starters who have large question marks, a couple of long men/spot starters, Pineda and they are short at least two bullpen arms that will need to be counted on for innings. I see my confidence poll number dropping every time I read Heyman’s remarks coupled with Hal taking a active role.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I mean…..those are certainly Plans G and beyond. Sure.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Let’s see, would I rather see Beltran go on the DL a couple of times, Granderson strike out 190 times, or Ichiro hit .260 with 3 HRs and 27 RBI? Hmmm… I guess Beltran.

  • Dick M

    I’d pass on Beltran. Just too old. Bring Grandy back.

  • Anthony

    I have no interest in bringing Granderson back. Would rather have Choo, Beltran, or Ellsbury over Granderson.

  • EndlessJose

    Beltran as a RF/DH for two years is a major upgrade from Granderson who like Teixeira is a bad pitching hitter.

    Get young at SS and catching.Beltran will again take a discount to come here.

  • 461deep

    Carlos does not look so diminished to me. Yes a bit but additionally, Cardinals ballpark hurts all power hitters even Puhols save McGwire. I’d give him 2 years but no more. He will. get 25-30 homers easy in YS and protect/embellish Soriano, Cano & Tex. Feel Grandy is gone do to team disinterest so not an option.

  • Grover

    Still think this is classic misdirection talking up what you expect to go elsewhere while piling on the praise and hopefully upping the price. Assuming positive outcomes for Cano and Tanaka, at least one additional starter needs be added before the dollars grow very thin to cover the balance of the roster still requiring many holes to be filled. It is a crappy free agent class for starters and there is no way in hell Garza, Santana and Ubaldez ever live up to their dollars and years, let alone stay healthy. Colon, Maholm and any of the one year rentals provide more value and flexibility. Granderson is the prize of the four outfielders so often referred and the Yankees have wisely moved on with a pick in their pocket. Though I expect to see right field upgraded, at least the team has two warm bodies to throw out there. The same cannot be said for the rotation, the pen, third base and left handed designated hitter. As the Yankees are potentially competing with the Dodgers on Tanaka; after finalized, I could see some kind of Ethier-Wells swap where the Dodgers pick up a piece of the salary which has a AAV of $17.75M for four years with a vesting option/buyout of $2.5M. Kubel and Murphy might actually be preferable and I only added Morse to exemplify the value of three bats over one with so many holes to fill. And I haven’t even touched on the void behind the plate. There are just some spots that will have to be lived with next year. Hanigan does make some sense and his value is not only low but he is a free agent at season’s end and gives Murphy a full season at Scranton and Romine another year to prove he belongs in the show.