Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Whether the Giants Can Afford Carlos Beltran

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.


Doug said...

Who the hell is gonna give up value for Sanchez? He's coming off a terrible year. Why would you try and sell low on him, that doesn't make any sense. He's not going to be all that expensive and he's as good an option for #5 starter as Zito or Surkamp. I mean, I guess they're 'listening' the way you do on all of your non-superstar players, but I just can't see a way that trading Sanchez is going to bring any real kind of return.

Re: signing Beltran - instinctively I'm pretty opposed to it. Long contract + old is not something I generally like. But if the organization has the money and they're sure that it's not going to affect our ability to sign extensions for our talent... I mean, if it's something that's not going to cripple us, I guess we have to go for it. We might even have a pretty decent offense - 3 or 4 pretty good hitters! Holy crap!

M.C. O'Connor said...

The Giants have more money than God, but whether they'll spend it is anybody's guess. They seem to say they won't spend too much more than last season ($118M) so I expect a "soft cap" around $125M, maybe $130M. The Phillies spent $165M in 2011 and I would be stunned if the Giants did that. A Matt Cain extension is waaayyyy more important than Carlos Beltran. I like Beltran, and think his hitting is perfectly suited to our club and park, but he is NOT a difference-maker. He adds value for sure, but he is not the piece that will "put us over the top." In fact, there is no such piece. Busters' return, Belt's growth, bouncebacks from Torres and Huff, a pinch here and there and you have a league-average group that will be enough with Tim, Matt, MadBum and crew. Given Sabe's history, I expect some new, small pieces and not one marquee piece. Beltran, for example, does not solve the leadoff/shortstop "problem." I agree with your analysis that he might be cheaper than expected, and that may increase the likelihood that the Giants will sign him, but he's not the end-all and be-all. In fact, I'd be surprised if the Dodgers don't make a run at him. He could stay in RF or move to LF (I doubt if Ethier cares) and his D would not be an issue in their park.

I think trading Sanchez is nuts. He is "cost-controlled" as he has one more year of arb and is excellent insurance if MadBum goes down, for example. I think he's far, far better than Zito or Surkamp as a #5. the Giants have enviable starting depth and the assumption that they should trade some away is crazy. Most teams would kill for the Giants depth. You don't make yourself (necessarily) better by dealing away talent. Who thinks we'd get something worthwhile in return?

Max said...

Who is on record as suggesting a guy entering his age 35 season is going to command 5 years? I'm pretty sure that not only is that not the conventional wisdom, it's also exceedingly unlikely to happen.

Beltran is a good hitter who shouldn't command much more than 3 years at ~$15mm/yr. The Giants have a clear dearth of good hitters, are seeking to compete over the next couple of years, and want to save the long term commitments for Matt and Tim. Seems like a match made in heaven, no?

Zo said...

I think I read on MLBTradeRumors that John Shea thinks that Beltran could be had for 2 years plus an option for something in the $13+ mil per year range. I could see him getting five years, but not with the other hitters on the market. And I think he is more of a difference-maker than any of the center fielder free agents listed. Doug, I agree that trading Sanchez just at the low point in his value is nuts. Some team may look at his K/9 and take a chance, offering a good young hitter that is blocked, so without much value to that team. That is the best scenario that could be hoped for, and I don't know if that situation even exists. MOC, we do not have a "shortstop problem" although we definitely have a "lead off problem." I just see a better chance of cobbling together an acceptable solution to lead off from within than I do of finding a acceptable offensive upgrade from within. We indeed should have an increase in production from existing players, hopefully including Belt and Schierholtz. Huff is a guess, but I hope so (I have not bought in to the alternate years theory), Andres a guess. I don't expect 2010 numbers from either. LA? Maybe, if they have an owner, but not if Beltran wants to sniff the playoffs.

nomisnala said...

What is Noah Lowry doing these days?

M.C. O'Connor said...

CoCo Crisp is the latest rumor. Raise your hand if that excites you.

Ron said...

My bold statement: Never, in the history of our ballpark, has there been a hitter (Giants or oppostion) whose swing is more ideal for the ballpark than Carlos Beltran. The place was built for a guy who can spray low-to-partially lofted line drives all over the place, from both sides of the plate. That guy is Carlos Beltran.

You can talk about Barry Bonds, but Barry Bonds would have had astronomical numbers playing anywhere &, probably, more astronomical in many other ballparks. Think about him playing half of his games in Texas or Philadelphia or Yankee Stadium ... scary.

I believe that Carlos Beltran's ideal ballpark is AT&T. Nowhere else can he combine 2B's, 3B's, & HR's with as much effectiveness. He is a very good player in any ballpark. In our ballpark, his numbers would be better than anywhere else he could choose. I believe that he is a difference-maker.

Having said that, to address Zo's initial premise & many of the succeeding comments:

- Yes, we can afford him. For God's sake, this is a rich team & can afford anyone. However, I'm not advocating active pursuit of Pujols or Fielder. That would be a waste of our time, because they're not coming to SF. We would be pawns in their efforts to drive their prices up elsewhere.

- A long-term Cain deal plus, within the next year, a long-term Lincecum deal are vital (more so than re-signing Beltran). However, we can afford the Cain/Lincecum deals & still re-sign Beltran.

- A 35-year old guy coming off some injuries shouldn't get a mega-bucks 5-year contract. I don't think that he will. I also don't believe John O'Shea's 2-yr plus an option scenario. However, I think that a nice, semi-fat 3-yr deal would get us Carlos Beltran. The only possibilities are that he is motivated by other factors beyond our control (e.g. other than Seattle, San Francisco is further away from Puerto Rico than anywhere else in MLB. I don't know whether that makes a difference to him, but I suppose that it may).

If we thought that Huff was worth 2 yrs @ $11M coming off of his 2010 season & an inconsistent career, we should certainly believe that Beltran is worth $13-15M for 3 yrs based upon a consistently excellent career. I think that we should get Carlos Beltran back.

Ron said...

Moments after that last post, I read that we have traded Jonathan Sanchez & Ryan Verdugo to Kansas City for Melky Cabrera. Wow! I don't know what to say about this. Here are my first reactions:

- Melky Cabrera has been a career mediocre performer, but is coming off of a very fine season. Fine season's for KC are achieved in an environment of anonymity. Performance under the bright lights of a pennant race are a different story.

- We certainly don't have to worry about seeing Jonathan Sanchez playing post-season baseball next season.

- Melky did play CF nearly all year. So, I would say that this possibly means "Goodbye, Andres Torres", or, at least, "Goodbye as an everyday player, Andres Torres". It also probably means "Goodbye, Cody Ross". I doubt that it means anything about our intentions re Carlos Beltran. So, I hope & expect our outfield corps next year to consist of Beltran, Melky, & Schierholtz, backed up by Belt & Torres. That would be pretty damn good.

Ron said...

Some research & a few key stats:

- Between them, Carlos Beltran & Melky Cabrera (both switch-hitters!), had 190 R's, 83 2B's, 11 3B's, 40 HR's, & 171 RBI's last season.

- OPS for Carlos was .910; OPS for Melky was .809.

- Melky stole 20 bases.

- K-rate is similar, but Carlos definitely wins out in BB-rate.