Update: Carlos Beltran signs with Astros, not Yankees

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Arguably the best DH option for the Yankees is off the board. According to multiple reports, former Yankee Carlos Beltran has agreed to a one-year deal worth $16M with the Astros. He gets a full no-trade clause as well. Carlos and Brian McCann, together again.

The Yankees reportedly had interest in re-signing Beltran to replace McCann at DH, but Mark Feinsand says they never made him a formal offer. That doesn’t mean much though. It just means they didn’t put a piece of paper in front of him to sign, not that they didn’t talk money.

Beltran, 39, hit .304/.344/.546 (135 wRC+) with 22 home runs in 99 games with the Yankees before being traded away as part of their deadline sell-off. He wasn’t quite as good with the Rangers after the trade, hitting .280/.325/.451 (103 wRC+) with seven homers in 52 games.

Interestingly enough, Beltran’s contract is worth less than the qualifying offer this offseason ($17.2M). A few days before the trade I said the Yankees shouldn’t consider Beltran a qualifying offer candidate because he’d probably accept it, and while it wasn’t a given, the money suggests it was a possibility.

There is no shortage of DH bats available in free agency. The big name is Edwin Encarnacion, but geez, I can’t imagine the Yankees would pay huge money and forfeit their first round pick to sign a soon-to-be 34-year-old DH. They got rid of like four old and expensive DHs this year. Why rush to sign another?

Other free agent DH candidates include Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli, Chris Carter, and Brandon Moss. I suppose we shouldn’t rule out Jose Bautista or Mark Trumbo either, though they’re cut from the same “expensive and forfeit a pick” cloth as Encarnacion. That’s not something the Yankees should be doing right now, I don’t think.

When in doubt, bet on the Yankees targeting the lefty pull-hitter. That’s their go-to demographic when looking for short-term roster fillers. Think Travis Hafner and Raul Ibanez. I guess that makes Moss the likely target? Ryan Howard, Colby Rasmus, Pedro Alvarez, and Michael Saunders are other possibilities.

The Lessons of the Trade Deadline [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2016 trade deadline was, truly, a monumental event for the Yankees. The team’s mediocre on-field performance pushed ownership to give Brian Cashman the authority to sell at the deadline, something the club hasn’t done in nearly three decades. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this year’s trade deadline a franchise-altering event.

Will the deadline alter the franchise for the better? That’s what we’re all hoping. The Yankees made five trades in the week leading up to the deadline, four of which qualify as “seller” trades, and those trades netted them two big leaguers and 12 total prospects. After the deadline Jim Callis said the Yankees have “the deepest system in the game.” The five trades told us five different things about the Yankees.

The Chapman Trade: The Yankees Are Opportunists

The first of the five trades was the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. It happened a full week prior to the deadline. I wanted the Yankees to trade Chapman even if they were in the race. I wrote that for I don’t know how many months before the trade actually happened. The club bought low in the offseason and had a chance to sell outrageously high at the deadline.

The Yankees did exactly that. They were 50-48 on the morning of the day of the Chapman trade, and they’d just won six of their last eight games. Rather than hang on to Chapman and try to get back into the race, they were smart about their situation. Contenders around the league were lining up for Aroldis and the offers were impressive. Far better than the draft pick the Yankees would have received after the season.

The Chapman trade told us the Yankees are going to be opportunistic. They acquired him at a deep discount (for terrible off-the-field reasons) and flipped him for a massive return. Getting Gleyber Torres alone would have been a major win. The other three players are gravy. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used the domestic violence incident to buy low on Chapman, but the team showed when an opportunity that is too good to be true presents itself, they’re going to pounce.

The Miller Trade: Committed To The Rebuild

Okay, fine, it’s a transition, not a rebuild. Whatever. The Yankees were in a very unique position at the trade deadline because they had not one, but two top notch relievers to peddle to contenders. Chapman was the first to go. Following that deal, the Yankees took offers for Andrew Miller, as they did last offseason. And of course everyone wanted him. Pretty much every contender was in on Miller.

Unlike Chapman, the Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller. I mean, they didn’t have to trade Chapman either, but it was such an obvious move. He was an impending free agent and his value was through the roof. Miller had two more affordable years left on his contract — plus he is insanely good and very popular — and keeping him would have completely justifiable. Teams wish they could have 25 guys like Andrew Miller on their roster.

Rather than keep Miller for those reasons, the Yankees acknowledged the bullpen market had exploded, and they capitalized on the opportunity. They’re so committed to the rebuild transition that they traded exactly the kind of player they want to acquire: affordable, effective, and likeable. The timetables didn’t line up though. A top notch reliever is not what they need right now. They need Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more.

The Clippard Trade: A Complete Tear Down Isn’t Happening

The Yankees won’t say it, but they’re rebuilding. They’re just not rebuilding all the way. A complete Astros style tear down isn’t going to happen because a) it can’t due to some unmovable contracts, and b) ownership doesn’t want it to happen. Hal Steinbrenner has made that very clear. They want to remain in quasi-contention to keep fans interested (i.e. sell tickets, etc.).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Tyler Clippard trade, which went down a few hours after the Miller trade, is the perfect example. Rather than turning Miller’s vacated roster spot over to a young reliever, the Yankees brought in a productive veteran to help them win. The cost was minimal — the Yankees gave up Vicente Campos, who got hurt (again) a few weeks after the trade — and the message was clear. The Yankees are still trying to win, which is commendable. There’s something to be said for refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field.

Now, does it makes sense to try to remain competitive even though the team on the field is telling you the postseason isn’t going to happen? That’s up for debate. I’m sure some fans appreciate the wins while others would rather a slightly better draft pick and larger bonus pool. That’s not for us to decide though. The Yankees have made their position clear. They’re going to try to win while rebuilding. The Clippard trade is the latest example.

The Beltran Trade: The Yankees Aren’t Afraid To Take Risks

The Yankees made five trades prior to the deadline this year but only two actually came on deadline day. The first sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for three Single-A pitching prospects in a deal that was more or less inevitable. Once Chapman and Miller were traded, there was no real point in hanging on to Beltran, another impending free agent. Yeah, he was the team’s best hitter, but that also increased his trade value.

As part of the Beltran trade, the Yankees acquired right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. Just last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. Tate’s stock took a hit in the first half because he hurt his hamstring and his velocity wavered, so much so that he sat in the upper-80s rather than the mid-90s at times. His stock was down quite a bit.

Rather than be scared away, New York targeted Tate in the Beltran trade and was willing to take on some risk in order to get premium talent. The Yankees never have access to players like Tate (and Frazier) in the draft. They never pick in the top ten. They were able to acquire that kind of talent at the deadline. To get Frazier, they gave up a great player in Miller. To get Tate, they had to roll the dice and trade their best hitter for a reclamation project. The Yankees didn’t play it safe. They’re shooting for the moon.

The Nova Trade: A Small Return Is Better Than No Return

Minutes prior to the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. Two! That’s one more than I expected. Nova was another impending free agent, and again, there was no reason to keep him. He wasn’t a qualifying offer candidate and it wasn’t like he was pitching well either. A few teams were interested, including the Rangers, but ultimately Cashman connected with his favorite trade partner and sent Nova to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot for Nova. Tito Polo could maybe be a speedy fourth outfielder down the line, and Stephen Tarpley figures to get plenty of chances as a hard-throwing lefty, but neither player is likely to have much of an impact. They’re spare parts. They’re also better than nothing, which is what the Yankees would have received had they kept Nova and let him finish out the season in pinstripes. Keeping Ivan would have been pointless given the team’s place in the standings.

The Nova trade was a common sense trade. Get whatever you can and move on. Polo and Tarpley probably won’t amount to much, but you never really know. Tarpley could figure out how to throw his breaking ball for strikes, or perhaps some team wants Polo as the third piece in a trade. Point is, the Yankees had an asset in Nova whose value was rapidly approaching zero. They accepted a small return at the deadline because a small return is better than no return.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Carlos Beltran

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last week the Yankees made their first major move of the offseason when they sent Brian McCann to the Astros for a pair of Single-A pitching prospects. The move cleared quite a bit of salary ($11.5M in both 2017 and 2018) and also freed up the DH position. That was McCann’s only real ticket to regular at-bats now that Gary Sanchez is entrenched behind the plate.

Even before the trade, the Yankees were connected to many of the top free agent sluggers available. I have no doubt some of that is the general “the Yankees are in on everyone” nonsense we hear every offseason. Chances are there is some legitimate interest too. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. The McCann trade created a need at DH and the team is exploring their options. It’s what they do.

One of those options is ex-Yankee Carlos Beltran, who was traded away as part of the youth movement a few months ago. The Yankees signed him during he 2013-14 offseason, and he spent the next two and a half years in New York before being traded to the Rangers for three prospects at the 2016 trade deadline. Beltran is a free agent now and the Yankees are said to have interest in a reunion. Does bringing him back make sense? Let’s dive in.

Offensive Performance

Because Beltran spent all that time with the Yankees, we’re familiar with his work at the plate. He hit .304/.344/.546 (135 wRC+) with 22 home runs in 99 games before the trade this year, which is right in line with the .295/.357/.505 (135 wRC+) batting line he put up after April last season. Remember how bad Beltran was last April? Woof. He followed that with over 800 plate appearances of 135 wRC+ baseball. Cool.

Beltran didn’t perform quite as well with the Rangers after the trade — he hit .280/.325/.451 (103 wRC+) with seven homers in 52 games with Texas — though I’m not too concerned about that. He was healthy and I’m sure there was something of an adjustment period after joining a new team in a new division in the middle of a postseason race. The end result was a .295/.337/.471 (119 wRC+) batting line with 29 homers in 593 plate appearances in 2016.

Of course, when you sign a free agent, you’re getting what he does in the future, not what he’s done in the past. That’s the tricky part. Beltran will turn 40 soon after Opening Day and it is very reasonable to wonder what he has to offer at that age. Batted ball data is a pretty big deal when it comes to players approach 40, so here is Beltran over the last three seasons:

carlos-beltran-batted-balls

An increase in ground balls is a classic “he’s losing bat speed” indicator, and while Beltran’s ground ball rate was higher in 2016 than it was in 2015, it wasn’t a huge increase. A 42.1% ground ball rate isn’t all concerning anyway. It starts to get scary when hitters, especially middle of the order power hitters like Beltran, start getting up closer to 50%. Carlos is not close to that yet.

As you can see in the graph, Beltran’s ground ball and soft contact rates did tick up late in the season, while he was with the Rangers. That helps explain why his numbers slipped after the trade. That could be nothing more than a small sample size blip though. Carlos could have been worn down after a long season, especially after playing a chunk of it in the Texas heat. Could be nothing, could be something. We can’t possibly know.

Point is, there are no major red flags in Beltran’s batted ball data over the last few years. He’s still elevating the ball and he’s still making hard contact overall. From both sides of the plate too. The sudden late season increase in ground ball and soft contact rates this past season is a little red flag. It’s something to consider. It’s not enough to avoid signing Beltran completely, I don’t think.

Defensive & Baserunning Value

This is easy: none. Less than none, really. Beltran is a negative in the field. He’ll cost you runs. Forget saving them. Once upon a time he was as good as any center fielder in the game. Now he’s a barely mobile right fielder who fits best at DH. Age and years of knee injuries will do that to a guy. With McCann gone, the Yankees are in position to play Beltran at DH exclusively in 2017, which is where he belongs.

As for the baserunning, it’s the same deal. Beltran’s doesn’t run well anymore. It’s not just the lack of stolen bases either — Beltran stole one base in 2016, none in 2015, three in 2014, and two in 2013 — it’s the other aspects of baserunning too. This past season Beltran took the extra base only 30% of the time. That’s going first-to-third on single, scoring from first on a double, things like that. The MLB is average was 40%. He was far below that.

According to the numbers at FanGraphs, Beltran cost his teams 4.2 runs on the bases and in the field in 2016. Baseball Prospectus says it was 5.0 runs. That doesn’t sound like much, but remember, he played only 69 games in the outfield compared to 73 at DH. The playing time split limited the defensive damage. Given his age, there’s no reason to think Beltran’s defense or baserunning will improve. He’s a bat-only player.

Injury History

For the first time since 2013, Beltran managed to avoid the disabled list this past season. He did miss time with knee, hamstring, and quad problems — Carlos had to have his knee drained in June — but they were all day-to-day injuries. Last season Beltran was sidelined with an oblique strain. The year before he had a bone spur in his elbow that required season-ending surgery.

Beltran’s knees are the biggest concern going forward. Guys pull obliques and hamstrings get tight. It happens. More and more with each passing year too. Beltran’s knees are pretty messed up though. The left, the one he had drained his year, has given him on and off problems over the years. The right knee required microfracture surgery back in 2010. The move to the full-time DH should help Beltran’s knees stay healthy. His medical history isn’t pretty though.

Contract Estimates

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

First things first: Beltran did not receive the qualifying offer this offseason. He was not eligible to receive it after being traded at midseason. I’m pretty sure there was better than a 50/50 chance Carlos would have taken the $17.2M qualifying offer, but who knows. Either way, he’s not attached to draft pick compensation. No worries there.

Unlike some other big name DH candidates, most notably Edwin Encarnacion, Beltran figures to come on a short-term contract given his age. No draft pick and a short-term deal for a guy who hit 29 homers with a 119 wRC+ in 2016? Pretty sweet. Here are some contract estimates:

I include Bowden in these things because his free agent contract predictions have been insanely accurate over the last few years. He might not get them right down to the last dollar, but he’s almost always in the ballpark. It’s kinda freaky, really, to be that close year after year after year.

MLBTR and the FanGraphs crowd project a one-year contract, which is what common sense tells you a soon-to-be 40-year-old free agent should receive, no matter how productive he was this past season. Common sense doesn’t always win out in free agency. With teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays and Red Sox and Astros and Red Sox said to be in the mix, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Beltran gets two years. The team that offers the second year might be the one that gets him.

So What About The Yankees?

This is what I think: I think Beltran is Plan A for the Yankees at DH now that McCann is gone. He’s the guy they want. He won’t cost them a draft pick and he’ll come on a short-term deal, plus they know him. They know Beltran’s work habits and what he’s like in the clubhouse. Also, he adds lineup balance as a switch-hitter, and because he’s played in the Bronx the last few years, there should be no adjustment period. It’ll be like he never left.

I also think the Yankees are unwilling to go two years to get Beltran. Maybe one year with an option, but not two guaranteed years. Every indication they’ve given the last year or so points to getting under the luxury tax threshold — whatever that number winds up being — during the 2018 season, and two years for Beltran compromises that. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia will all be off the books after next season. That’s their best chance to get under the threshold.

Also, what about Beltran? What does he want? Chances are his top priority next season is being with a contender. He wants a World Series ring. The guy has banked over $200M in contracts in his career. Chasing after every last dollar doesn’t seem like a thing that will happen. Beltran figures to join a no-doubt contender. He’s not stupid. He knows the Yankees are a team in transition — heck he was traded for prospects as part of the transition — and that means there’s a pretty decent chance they won’t contend in 2017.

Bringing Beltran back for a year to serve as the DH and mentor the young kids seems like a great idea, and really, it is. The question is whether Beltran is on board with that plan. Another team could offer a better chance of contention and/or a guaranteed second year, which throws a wrench into things. I’m not going to lie, bringing Beltran back makes me nervous after watching A-Rod, Teixeira, and Alfonso Soriano fall apart in the blink of an eye. I’d be okay with a one-year deal, but I wouldn’t be too upset if he winds up elsewhere either.

Hot Stove Notes: Beltran, Hammel, Holland, Headley

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

For the first time since 2013, the Yankees have made it to November 17th without making a trade or free agent signing. Last winter they made the John Ryan MurphyAaron Hicks trade on November 11th, and the year before they re-signed Chris Young on November 9th and made the Francisco CervelliJustin Wilson trade on November 12th. So far this year all we have is a Joe Mantiply waiver claim. Lame. Here’s the latest hot stove buzz.

Yankees among teams most interested in Beltran

According to Rob Bradford, the Yankees are among the most interested teams in free agent Carlos Beltran. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Astros are also in the mix. There are no shortage of DH bats available this winter. Beltran is part of a group that includes Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, and others. We could include Jose Bautista here too. Kendrys Morales was in that group before signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays last week.

Beltran had a very productive season for the Yankees before being traded to the Rangers, where he was just okay. You could do a heck of a lot worse than signing Carlos to be your short-term DH, which is something the Yankees will probably need should Brian McCann get traded away. That said, after seeing Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez go from very productive to toast in an offseason in their late-30s, bringing Beltran back makes me a little nervous.

Yankees have contacted Hammel

As part of their search for “pitching, pitching, pitching,” the Yankees have already reached out to free agent right-hander Jason Hammel, according to George King. Hammel became a free agent last week when the Cubs surprisingly declined his $12M club option. They had to pay him a $2M buyout anyway, so it was a $10M decision. Apparently the Cubs threw Hammel a bone and let him decide whether he wanted to come back, and he instead opted for free agency, because he’s not a moron.

Anyway, the 34-year-old Hammel had a 3.83 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 166.2 innings this past season, and over the last few years he’s worn down and been close to a non-factor in September. He’s more of a 150-inning guy than a 180-inning guy. Hammel has been very homer prone the last few years (1.28 HR/9 since 2013) and I can’t imagine moving into Yankee Stadium will help matters. Still, he’s one of the best free agent starters on the market, so the Yankees are smart to check in. It never hurts to see what a guy wants.

Yankees have shown early interest in D. Holland

The Yankees, along with the Pirates and Padres, have shown early interest in free agent lefty Derek Holland, reports Jeff Wilson. The Rangers tried to trade Holland earlier this offseason, but after finding no takers, they decided to decline his $11.5M option and instead pay him a $1M buyout. It’s entirely possible Holland is the second best left-handed starter in free agency behind Rich Hill. It’s either him or Brett Anderson. Egads.

The lefty Holland. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The lefty Holland. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Holland had a 4.95 ERA (4.75 FIP) in 107.1 innings last season. He’s been limited to only 203 innings the last three years due to all sorts of injuries, including knee and shoulder trouble. Holland has five pitches (four-seamer, sinker, slider, curveball, changeup) and PitchFX clocked him in the 92-94 mph range this year, so the 30-year-old still may have something to offer. Would he take a one-year contract to rebuild value in Yankee Stadium? Maybe! But the odds (and common sense) are against it.

Yankees have contacted Boras about G. Holland

Now for the other Holland. According to George King, the Yankees have contacted agent Scott Boras about free agent Greg Holland, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Holland threw for scouts last week and the Yankees were among the many teams in attendance. “Over 20 teams (have called). Most teams are doing their due diligence,” said Boras.

Holland, 30, had his elbow rebuilt in September 2015, so he’s 14 months out from surgery. Reports indicate he was 91-92 mph during his workout last week, down considerably from his peak, but I don’t think that’s alarming. He’s still rebuilding arm strength. His health is obviously most important, but after that you’re looking at his mechanics and the effort in his delivery. A free and easy 91-92 is much different than max effort 91-92. I can’t help but think Holland is going to wind up with whatever team offers him their closer’s job right away.

Yankees open to moving Headley

In addition to McCann and Brett Gardner, the Yankees are also open to moving Chase Headley, reports Ken Rosenthal. This isn’t surprising. The Yankees reportedly made Headley (and Jacoby Ellsbury) available at the trade deadline. It only makes sense to put him out there again now. The free agent third base market is Justin Turner, Luis Valbuena coming off hamstring surgery, and nothing else. There are few quality hot corner options available.

The Yankees have outfield replacements for Gardner and Ellsbury, and they’ve already replaced McCann behind the plate, but they’d have to go out and add a third baseman should they trade Headley. That’s not insignificant. I love Ronald Torreyes as much as the next guy, but giving him 500+ plate appearances seems like bad news. That isn’t to say the Yankees should hold on to Headley because they lack a third base replacement. By all means, see what the market offers. It just means this is a two-step process. Trade Headley, then find a replacement.

Thursday Notes: Beltran, Blue Jays, IFAs, Qualifying Offer

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

There are, at most, ten more baseball games left this season. It could be as few as six. That stinks. The offseason is fun in it’s own way, but nothing is better than actual games. That’s why we all watch. Anyway, make sure you check out MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees post. Nice little rundown of what could happen this winter. Here are some other news and notes.

Blue Jays had interest in Beltran

The Blue Jays had interest in Carlos Beltran prior to the trade deadline, reports Gerry Fraley. Toronto skipper John Gibbons confirmed the club considered a run at Beltran this summer. “Beltran was a guy we even talked about. We saw him over the years with the Yankees and what a great hitter he was, a clutch type performer,” said Gibbons prior to the start of the ALDS.

The Red Sox also reportedly tried to acquire Beltran prior to the deadline, and just like with Boston, it’s unclear whether the Yankees would have actually gone through with an intra-division trade with the Blue Jays. Toronto’s farm system is not nearly as good as the Red Sox’s, though I’m sure the two sides could have found a match if they really set their mind to it. The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the five-game ALCS — five of the eight came in Game Four — and they clearly needed another bat. Beltran would have been able to help. No doubt.

MLB pushing for international draft

To no surprise whatsoever, MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with MLBPA, reports Buster Olney. MLB has wanted an international draft for years now — it’s a way to keep costs down for owners, that’s the only goal here — but the union has yet to give in. I wonder if this will be the year though. Here are some more details from Olney:

Under the terms of MLB’s initial concept, the new international draft system would start in March of 2018, with a 10-round draft held over two days. As the new structure evolved, with terms grandfathered into the process, the minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021 … As part of baseball’s proposal, MLB would operate facilities in the Dominican Republic, where international draft prospects would be invited to live to develop their skills and education before becoming eligible.

Two things. One, those kids are going to have to wait two more years to get their payday, no matter how large or small it may be. That sucks. Right now they can sign at 16. Under this proposal they have to wait until they’re 18. And two, this is yet another incentive for teams to be bad. Bad clubs already get the largest draft bonus pools and protected picks. Now they’ll get access to the top international talent without worrying about other clubs offering more money.

This proposal — thankfully that’s all this is right now, a proposal — is great for the teams and owners. They’ll save money and also get two extra years to evaluate these kids before deciding whether to sign to them. It stinks for the players, who have to wait to get paid and risk having their skills erode before they can cash in. You have no idea how many kids sign at 16 only to then fill out physically and lose the electric athleticism that got them paid. An international draft is inevitable. Hopefully MLBPA doesn’t relent this CBA and we get a few more years of true free agency.

Qualifying offer system could change with CBA

The qualifying offer system may also be revamped with the new CBA, reports Joel Sherman. The QO isn’t going away, but the MLB and the MLBPA may make it so players can not receive the QO in consecutive years. That means the Orioles wouldn’t be able to get a draft pick for Matt Wieters this offseason since they gave him the QO last offseason, which he accepted. Something like that.

I can’t imagine MLB and MLBPA will ever completely severe ties between the draft and free agency — they don’t want rich teams to have access to the best free agents and first round talent — so this might be the next best thing. If this proposal goes through, you might see some more players sign one-year contracts so they can go back out on the market with no draft pick attached. I think most guys will look to grab the largest payday as soon as possible though. Being set for life financial is pretty cool, I hear.

The Yankees’ Only Impact Middle of the Order Veteran [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last season was an interesting one for Carlos Beltran. Early in year two of his three-year contract, Beltran looked completely done. Like done done. He hit .162/.216/.265 (22 wRC+) last April and everyone wanted him to go away. Then Beltran rebounded to hit .295/.357/.505 (135 wRC+) the rest of the season. We all wanted him gone in April, then we couldn’t get enough of him from May through October.

The Yankees hoped Beltran could put together a complete season in 2016, with offensive excellence from start to finish. It would benefit everyone. Beltran would help the Yankees win and he’d also put himself in great position heading into free agency. You never really know with 39-year-old players though. We saw Alfonso Soriano lose it in the blink of the eye a few years ago. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez did the same this year. Beltran was the exception.

The All-Star First Half

Beltran’s post-May success last year did indeed carry over into 2016. Boy did it ever. His April was a bit slow again — he hit .253/.276/.434 (85 wRC+) in the season’s first month — but not as slow as last April, thankfully. And sadly, even with that slow first few weeks, Beltran was still arguably New York’s best hitter in April. The offense was not so good early on. Yeah.

From the start of May through the end of July, Beltran was a man possessed, hitting .319/.363/.580 (149 wRC+) with 18 home runs in 71 games and exactly 300 plate appearances. That’s after hitting 19 home runs in 133 games last year. Beltran hit his 19th home run in Game 71 this year. Crazy. At one point spanning May 24th to June 22nd, he hit ten homers in 25 games. That is pretty incredible.

The biggest of those home runs was a go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning against the Angels on June 6th. The Yankees had lost eight of their previous 12 games and they weren’t scoring many runs. They were waiting for that big blow, and Beltran provided it. The Yankees went on to win that game as well as their next four.

Beltran was so good with the Yankees this season that he was selected to the All-Star Game. That’s what happens when you hit .299/.338/.550 (135 wRC+) with 19 home runs in the first half. Beltran was tenth in the AL in homers and seventh in slugging percentage prior to the All-Star break. He was legitimately one of the best power hitters in the game in the first half. Who saw that coming?

Believe it or not, this was Beltran’s first All-Star Game selection as an AL player. He never once made it with the Royals. That’s pretty wild. Beltran played briefly in the All-Star Game — he played two innings in right field and flew out in his only at-bat — and that was a-okay with me. The Yankees needed Beltran to have any shot of getting back into the postseason. Let him rest during the All-Star break.

The Final Weeks in New York

The Yankees never did get back into the race in July. They went 8-8 in 16 July games after the All-Star break, so they continued to tread water. It wasn’t Beltran’s fault. He hit .328/.373/.525 (134 wRC+) with three home runs in those 16 games. Beltran continued to be the team’s best hitter, and it still wasn’t good enough to get them back into the race. They were 5.5 games back of a postseason spot at the All-Star break and 5.5 games back at the end of July.

Aroldis Chapman was traded away on July 25th, a full week before the deadline. That was a pretty good indication Beltran would be dealt as well. He was in his contract year like Chapman, and with the Yankees unable to gain any ground in the postseason race, trading Beltran for prospects was a better move than keeping him for some half-baked attempt of contention. Yeah, they could have made him the qualifying offer and gotten a draft pick after the season, but I didn’t love that idea.

As expected, pretty much every contender had some interest in Beltran prior to the trade deadline. He was the best middle of the order hitter available, there was no long-term commitment, and he’s a veteran guy who has thrived in big moments. Teams were willing to overlook the defensive issues to get the big switch-hitting bat. The Rangers, Astros, Indians, and even the Red Sox reportedly checked in on Beltran. I’m sure others made the phone call too.

The Yankees ultimately worked out a deal with the Rangers, and a few hours before the August 1st deadline, Beltran was sent to Texas for three pitching prospects, the most notable of which was right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft. The first place Rangers got their middle of the order bat and the Yankees got some lower level pitching depth, and were able to buy low on a kid with some high upside.

Now, the Yankees wound up making a bit of a run in the second half, at one point creeping to within one game of a postseason spot, and boy, it sure would have been nice having Beltran and Gary Sanchez hitting back-to-back those final few weeks. The Yankees made the right move though. They got more in return for Beltran than a dinky little supplemental first round pick, plus they cleared playing time for Aaron Judge. It was a smart, sensible trade.

Nine Weeks in Texas

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After hitting .304/.344/.546 (135 wRC+) with 22 home runs in 99 games with the Yankees, Beltran went on to hit .280/.325/.451 (103 wRC+) with seven home runs in 52 games with the Rangers. He then went 2-for-11 (.182) with two singles and a walk in the team’s three-game loss to the Blue Jays in the ALDS. Beltran wasn’t bad with the Rangers — though average offense with his defense is a net negative — but he didn’t have huge impact either.

So far the Yankees have gotten nothing out of this trade other than an open roster spot, and that was to be expected. The three pitchers they acquired are all in Single-A. They’re in the process of trying to rebuild Tate, and the others, Nick Green and Erik Swanson, aren’t top prospects. You won’t see them on any top 30 Yankees prospects lists in the coming weeks because the system is deep, but they’re solid depth arms. The Yankees did what they had to do at the deadline, and that was sell high on a rental veteran with no real future with the team.

Outlook for 2017

While talking to reporters after the trade, Beltran said he wants to continue playing and he’d love to return to the Yankees. He’s wanted to play here for a long time and I’m sure he wishes his two and a half years in pinstripes could have gone better for the team overall. Of course, Beltran also told Rangers reporters after the season that he’d love to continue playing in Texas, so who knows. It might have just been lip service.

The Yankees do have an opening at DH with A-Rod gone, so re-signing Beltran wouldn’t be the worst move in the world. It would certainly be more affordable than spending big on someone like Edwin Encarnacion. At the same time, the Yankees have plenty of young players who can rotate through the DH spot, plus there’s Brian McCann as well. Beltran won’t cost a draft pick — the trade made him ineligible for the qualifying offer — which is a plus.

I’m sure we’ll hear the Yankees connected to Beltran at some point this offseason because we seem to hear about the Yankees being connected to every player throughout the winter. It does make some sense to bring him back. It really depends on what happens with McCann, and what the Yankees want to do with their young players. Are they so committed to playing them that they don’t even want to tie up DH at-bats with a veteran? It’s possible.

Update: Qualifying offer will be $17.2M this offseason

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

October 13th: The qualifying offer is $17.2M this offseason, according to Jon Heyman. That’s a bit higher than initially expected. It doesn’t change anything for the Yankees though. Teixeira is their only free agent eligible for the qualifying offer and he retired, so yeah.

July 28th: According to Buster Olney, the qualifying offer for the upcoming offseason is estimated at $16.7M. That’s up from $15.8M last season and $15.3M the offseason before. The QO is a one-year deal set at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and the deadline to make the offer is five days after the end of the World Series. Players then have seven days to accept or reject.

The Yankees only have one serious QO candidate: Carlos Beltran. He’s hitting .305/.347/.548 (134 wRC+) with 21 homers in 95 games this season, though his defense leaves much to be desired. I don’t think the Yankees should make Beltran the QO because he’ll probably accept it — who is giving a soon-to-be 40-year-old free agent $16.7M, even across two years? — and I don’t see that as a good thing for the reasons I outlined yesterday.

Mark Teixeira and Ivan Nova are New York’s only two other impending free agents, and based on what we heard earlier today, Nova will be traded prior to Monday’s deadline. Teixeira has been beyond awful this season, hitting .190/.270/.325 (59 wRC+) with nine homers in 71 games around a knee problem. A year ago at this time he looked like a QO candidate. Now? Now he can’t get off the team fast enough.

It’s also possible for CC Sabathia to become a free agent after the season, though that would require him to suffer a shoulder injury that would void his $25M vesting option for 2017. A healthy Sabathia is not a QO candidate at this point of his career. Sabathia with a shoulder injury? No chance. With Aroldis Chapman gone, Beltran is the Yankees’ only QO candidate. We’ll see what happens with him.

The QO offer entitles the team to a supplemental first round draft pick should the player reject the offer and sign elsewhere as a free agent. Signing a QO free agent means forfeiting your highest unprotected draft pick. It’s worth noting players who accept the QO can not be traded until June 1st of the following season, so if your plan is to make Beltran the offer and trade him if he accepts, it won’t fly. At least not immediately.

It’s worth noting the new upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement could change the QO system and I think that’ll happen, but chances are it’ll be minor tweaks rather than an overhaul. If MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement before the end of the World Series, then the new system will presumably take effect. If not, the current QO system stays in place until the two sides announce any changes. The current CBA expires December 1st.