Carlos Beltran hasn't had a lot to laugh about during his time with the Giants
Recently I took part in a somewhat heated debate regarding the recent trade that the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran for a pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.My opinion was that the trade marked a “win-now” strategy by General Manager Brian Sabean and that it will not work in the long run.
After winning the 2010 World Series the Giants were clearly throwing their hat into the ring of the top tier teams, whether or not they have the talent on the field to act like it they clearly have the support of the city as well as an increase in revenue over the last year. The team should start spending more money but that doesn’t make Carlos Beltran the guy to spend it on. Carlos Beltran will be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season and will likely required a significant amount of money to re-sign but we can get to that point later.
As far as the effect the trade will have on the Giants this year clearly there hasn’t been much on-the-field return during the two weeks since the trade, especially because of the hand injury that has held him out of a couple games recently and could be out of the line up for a while longer. Despite the significant drop in numbers for Beltran while wearing the Orange and Black a sample size of 46 plate appearances isn’t enough to be an extreme cause for concern, as he was having a very good offensive year in New York and there is no reason to think he can’t improve and return to that form for the rest of 2011.
Despite the reason for his struggles and the small sample size, it has been quite a drop none-the-less. Beltran’s strike out rate while with the Mets was a respectable 14.6%, but during his time with the Giants so far it has been 23.9%. A significant jump, but his season numbers overall are at 15.5% which shows that the bad stretch in San Francisco really is a small sample size. More important than the spike in K rate is the complete in drop of Isolated Power, or ISO, which isolates the power aspect from hitters statistics. Beltran’s ISO on the Metropolitan’s was .224 which made Beltran well within the top 30 for all of baseball. That number has been a paltry .111 in the short time he’s been with the Giants.
Second average, or SecA, is a tool that sabermetric thinkers use to help look at how players are gaining bases besides just a simple hits/at-bat ratio that batting average is. SecA is calculated by taking total bases, subtract hits, add walks and stolen bases, but then subtract caught stealing. That number is divided by at-bats and the ratio that results is SecA. Generally anything over .400 is thought to be very good, while anything over .500 is considered amazing. Beltran had a .402 in New York, but has struggled and currently has a SecA sitting at .133 during his time with San Francisco. Despite all the statistics that point to a drop in production the small amount of at-bats means the Giants and their fans need to relax and allow Beltran a little more time to adjust, the problem is that he might not be the force in the middle of the line-up that the Giants were hoping for when they acquired him on July 27th.
The biggest reason in favor of moving a top prospect for Those that are OK with trading Wheeler can cite players that have never amounted to the potential they held in the minors, such as Jesse Foppert, Kurt Ainsworth and Tim Alderson. But the opposite point can be raised about Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. That’s not factoring in Tim Lincecum, who was a fairly developed commodity when the Giants selected him 10th overall in 2006 despite the initial concerns that many scouts had about him.
Wheeler had 146 Innings Pitched while in the Giants system, and in that time frame he had 168 K's
The risk of holding onto a prospect is clear, but the value that a team gets when they develop a player and in turn have 3 years of team control and 3 years of arbitration is immense. Wheeler came into the year rated as the 55th best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America and the 2nd best prospect in the Giants organization behind only Brandon Belt. The mid-season rankings for Baseball America had Wheeler improved to the 35th best prospect. The value of a young pitcher with the potential of Wheeler is immense.
The Giants are currently seeing a return on a similar situation with Madison Bumgarner. The young lefty is currently in the middle of his first full year at the major league level after having a cup of coffee in the majors in 2009 and spending the second half of 2010 in the majors, he was a big part of the success the Giants had that year including the playoffs and eventual championship. Madison Bumgarner gets paid the league minimum for players under team control, $450,000. With the success on the field and the small salary Bumgarner is an incredible value for the Giants. While Bumgarner has already reached the majors, Zack Wheeler is still in the minors and has some development before he will be major league ready. The concern with prospects like Wheeler is that they will not be able to reach his ultimate potential. That is why teams will trade players with incredible potential while they are still in the minors for players like Beltran, even if the major leaguer will be a free agent during the following off-season. The problem with the Carlos Beltran trade is that there is a stipulation built into his contract that he is able to go into free agency after his contract expires without being offered arbitration.
The process of arbitration is somewhat complicated but the basics are that when a players contract expires and he is eligible for free agency, his most recent team can offer him arbitration; if he accepts then the two sides will each make a offer of what the players salary should be and then an arbitrator will decide who has a better argument and then the player will have a contract paying either the amount the team offered or the amount of money the player requested. If a free agent decides to not accept arbitration they will be free to sign with another team, but because his last team offered him arbitration they will generally receive some sort of draft pick in the next Rule 4 amateur draft. Either just 1 supplemental pick or that pick in addition to a 1st round pick that belonged to the team that just signed the free agent.
The value of these picks are considerable because they can lead to more young talent coming into the organization, such as a young pitcher like Wheeler or Bumgarner. Since the stipulation in his contract dictates that he can reach free agency and in turn sign with another team without that team giving up a draft pick his potential value to prospective teams in the off-season will be raised. This also means that the Giants could lose Beltran without receiving the compensation of two draft picks. This makes the Carlos Beltran trade increasingly risky for the Giants.
Some may argue that the potential long term value that the Giants lost when trading Wheeler may be recouped by re-signing Carlos Beltran. Given that he will be 35 early in April during the 2012 season, re-signing the aging outfielder could hold a significant amount of risk for the Giants. According to Baseball Reference, similar players to Carlos Beltran at his age include Shawn Green, Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson, Carlos Lee, and Bernie Williams.
Clearly Winfield aged very well, playing into his 40s. Dawson had knee issues, somewhat similar to what Beltran has gone through in recent years, but still was able to play until he was 41 although in a diminished capacity during his last seasons. Dawson actually had to move to a corner outfield position later in his career just like Beltran. Shawn Green was out of baseball by the time he was 35, while Bernie Williams played until he was 37 and Carlos Lee is still currently playing for the Astros as a 35-year-old. Carlos Beltran will be 35 less than 1 month into the 2012 season. Clearly the out put of all of the players went down significantly during their late 30s, even the Hall-of-Famers Winfield and Dawson.
When GM's have just received a ring like that they tend to get a longer leash
Even if Beltran takes a significant pay cut when he signs a contract this off-season, he will almost assuredly be making north of $10 million a year. Given his advanced leverage with teams I could see multiple teams going after Beltran and eventually signing him to a 4-year $50 million deal. That might be the high end of a potential contract but his negotiator is super-agent Scott Boras and anything is possible when he is involved. The floor for a Beltran contract is likely similar to the one Paul Konerk signed with the Chicago White Sox this past off-season, 3 years $37.5 million. The potential for Beltran to produce at a level that the Giants would at least get a return on that investment is somewhat unlikely and the more likely scenario is that Beltran could become an albatross of a contract, a type of contract that the Giants are all too familiar with recently.
In the end, for the trade to not be looked at as a failure by Brian Sabean, the Giants need Carlos Beltran to help lead a deep playoff run potentially a world series victory. If the Giants either fail to make the playoffs or get bumped early the trade will have proved to be a colossal failure. They also need to not bend to any sort of pressure to re-sign Beltran to a long term contract. Whatever happens the Giants will have to hope that Wheeler doesn’t develop into the top-of-the-rotation pitcher that he has the potential to be in the long run.