December 7, 2013

AS THE YANKEES GET OLDER AND MORE WASTEFUL:

Carlos Beltran as Evidence of the Changing Market (Dave Cameron, December 6, 2013, FanGraphs)

In the winter of 2011, Carlos Beltran hit free agency. He was heading into his age-35 season, but he was also coming off a pretty great walk-year, as he posted a 152 wRC+ in 598 plate appearances, the best single season wRC+ of his career. Even with declining defensive skills and a sub-par UZR rating, he still racked up +4.3 WAR, 15th best in baseball among outfielders. And, because of a clause inserted in his contract, the Giants were not allowed to offer him arbitration, so he hit the market as a no compensation free agent.

And he got 2 years and $26 million. Heath Bell got $27 million that winter -- granted, it was for three years instead of two -- but the market still gave Heath Bell more guaranteed money than Carlos Beltran two off-seasons ago. Since then, two teams have paid to get rid of Heath Bell, and I think it's fair to say that the market missed on that deal. But the market also clearly missed on Beltran that winter, as he was one of the most productive hitters signed that off-season and got a fraction of what the premier free agents were landing. That wasn't a recessionary winter; that was the winter that saw Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder land deals for over $200 million apiece and $100+ million commitments for both Yu Darvish and Jose Reyes.

Now, Beltran is two years older, and heading into his age-37 season. His new walk year wRC+ is 132, still very good, but not at the level he was at the last time he went into free agency. His defense has continued to decline, and now his walk-year WAR is just +2.0. Still, the Cardinals made him a qualifying offer, so this time around, any team signing him would have to forfeit a draft pick in order to do so.

Two years older. Not as good of a player as he was. Compensation attached. This time, 3 years and $45 million. [...]

But enough of Beltran as a sign of baseball's riches. Let's at least spend a paragraph or two talking about Beltran as a player, and now, Beltran as a Yankee. Pretty much every projection I've seen for 2014 has him as a roughly league average player. Carlos Beltran, as great as his career has been, is probably currently overrated. It's not that average players don't have value, but they probably shouldn't cost $15 million a year for three years, plus the loss of a draft pick, especially for their age 37-39 seasons.

As a part-time OF/part-time DH, Beltran can still help a contender, and probably help them for the next two years, though I wouldn't be so sure about year three. But $15 million a year for an above average hitter/below average defender combo pack? When guys like David Murphy, David DeJesus, and Nate McLouth are all signing for around 2/$11M?
Posted by at December 7, 2013 9:56 AM
  
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