OK, that is probably not the best title for this post. “Afford” implies that I have some knowledge of the Giants finances, and I don’t. Perhaps a better title would be “On Whether the Giants Are Likely to be Able to Produce a Successful Bid for Free Agent Carlos Beltran. The answer to that question is, in my view, “Yes.”
The conventional wisdom says the Carlos Beltran will demand (and receive) a fiver year contract. The conventional wisdom also asserts that the Giants will be able to be outbid by other teams that either have deeper financial resources or that have fewer sunk costs, meaning existing salary commitments. But let's examine how valuable Carlos Beltran would be and who would be the likely bidders for him.I have observed is that there are two levels of superstars. The upper level tends to get a lot of money. Their contracts, even in today’s recession-limited market, are stratospheric (and remember, from the Giants’ attendance figures in 2011, their market is decidedly not recession-limited). But then you see a drop off, and superstar free agents who are not the very cream of a given year’s crop tend not to have the high profile interest that the tippy-top guys get. Carlos Beltran is not the premier free agent on the market. That would be Albert Pujols, followed closely by Prince Fielder. Elias Sports Bureau has a ranking system of the most desirable free agents and you can find a copy of it on MLB Trade Rumors, here. Carlos Beltran ranks #7. MLB Trade Rumors also has a list of the top 50 free agents, here, and which team they guess each one is likely to sign with. With the addition of Yu Darvish, Carlos Beltran is addressed in the #9 position. There are several free agents that are pitchers, including starters CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle and relievers Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon (he wouldn’t really pull a Damon, would he?), and Ryan Madson.
In any year, the tippy-top only goes so deep. There are always a couple of high profile signings, and then a lot that make you wonder if the high profile guys are really worth their money compared to the rest. I just don't think Carlos Beltran will be one of the top top guys. Age is one reason. Here are some pretty good hitters that may be higher on wish lists than Carlos Beltran: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Aramis Ramirez. Carlos Beltran will be 35 when the 2012 season starts. Albert Pujols will be 32; Fielder, 27; Reyes, 28; and Rollins and Ramirez, 33. So I don't think five years is a given for Carlos, considering that their are a number of other, younger players out there to soak up the highest offers.
The Yankees need pitching, pitching and more pitching. They have enough hitting. The Red Sox need to replace Big Papi, and need to replace or re-sign Papelbon, although they may be interested in Carlos, they have other priorities. The Phillies need to replace or re-sign Madson and Rollins, the Mets already did Beltran, and the Cardinals need to re-sign the big A at all costs, and then shop for relief, although it held up well enough in the playoffs. Texas needs to re-sign or replace Wilson. The Cubs with their new GM might be a likely bidder, so might Washington. There is always a surprise team, of course, but the Giants have the advantage of being a team that is known to contend, and that carries weight with players who are looking to get into the post-season. Always remember, that Brian Sabean, for all the ire that he has engendered in the lunatic fringes, somehow managed to wind up with a stable of pitching that is unmatched and few needs except to upgrade the offense.
So I believe the Giants are in the driver's seat to sign Carlos if they want to, and I also think it will not take five years nor Albert Pujols money to do so. What is more, I think they should. Carlos left/right, Nate center/right, Brandon Belt left/first, and Andres as the fourth outfielder at center works for me.
Oh. Apparently, the Giants may be open to trading Jonathan Sanchez.