Thinking About Carlos Beltran

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 12: National League All-Star Carlos Beltran #15 of the New York Mets hits an infield single in the fourth inning of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Now that the All-Star game has come and gone, the next major event for Major League Baseball is the July 31st non waiver trade deadline.  One of my favorite things about baseball are transactions- be they free agent acquisitions or trades, the moves that a baseball organization makes (or doesn't make) to bring in outside talent always generates plenty of discussion.  The hot stove is very slowly beginning to heat up- and, with the Giants three games ahead of the Diamondbacks in the NL West, it stands to reason that an upgrade in an area of weakness could ensure the Giants another playoff berth.  And as we all know, a solid hitter would be a very welcome addition to a lineup that has suffered from injuries and from the offensive ineptitude of players that look like shells of their former selves.

The New York Mets aren't in the best financial shape, nor do they seem particularly likely to catch up to either the Phillies or Braves.  They're currently sitting around .500, and it seems likely that the Mets will be shopping players.  The potential prize of the bunch- if they decide to make him available- would be Jose Reyes, he of the .354/.398/.529 batting line with a remarkable 15 triples and an 83% success rate on attempted steals.  Reyes has been linked to the Giants in the past, of course, but given his MVP-caliber season and the dearth of quality shortstops in the Majors, his price tag will undoubtedly be prohibitive- especially for a team that would only be guaranteed his services for half a season, assuming his legs hold up.

Luckily for the Giants, Reyes isn't the only hitter on the Mets in the midst of a good season.  Carlos Beltran, he of the .285/.377/.503 batting line and a True Average* (TAv) of .316, is being shopped- and, considering his forecasted production and price tag, the Giants would be smart to try and zero in on him.

PECOTA believes Beltran will hit at a .290 TAv mark for the rest of the season, adding an additional +9 runs in his forecasted 262 remaining plate appearances.  Given Nate Schierholtz's recent outburst and a skill set that seems best suited for right field, it seems logical for Beltran to play left, where his attributes- according to the Fans' Scouting Report- suggest he would be a +3 defender for the rest of the season (prorated to the Giants' fly ball tendencies).  Add it all up, and Beltran is expected to add about 2 wins above a "replacement level" player (1.8 to be exact), meaning he'll be worth somewhere around $9MM for the rest of the season (not accounting for the added revenue for making the playoffs, of course!).  Beltran is owed about $8.2MM right now, so it's essentially a wash- except he projects to be a Type A free agent, which typically gives a team a $5MM return (which is based on the average value provided by first round picks while under the team's control), giving Beltran a trade value of about $6MM.

According to some interesting research, this amounts to a B level hitter or pitcher- which, for the Giants, consists of Zack Wheeler, Gary Brown, Francisco Peguero, Thomas Neal, Jose Casilla, and Jarrett Parker.  The first two names on the list are obviously off-limits, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Giants are high enough on Peguero to not want to include him in a deal.  Of course, different teams value players differently, and the Giants will likely have to compete with other organizations for Beltran's services.  So it's a bit hard to pin down Beltran's "exact" trade value, but this method serves well as an approximation.  This also works under the assumption that Beltran will hit at a .290 clip the rest of the season; if he were to hit at his current rate, he would add an extra win and be worth about two B-level prospects, which also seems like a reasonable return.  For the Giants, the estimated gain from playing Beltran over either Cody Ross or Pat Burrell is an additional win; if the Giants believe he will continue to hit as well as he has, he could represent a 2-3 win upgrade in left.

EDIT: Beltran cannot be offered arbitration at the end of the season due to the nature of his contract, which changes his value from an estimated net gain of ~$6MM to...~$1MM.  Which means that the Mets would likely have to eat some of his contract in order to receive a return for him.  Thanks for the heads-up, guys!

Over the years, I've learned to not pay much mind to trade rumors surrounding the Giants, or to take them with a very large grain of salt.  But something feels very plausible about this one- Brian Sabean has openly stated that he is willing to trade for rental players, Carlos Beltran has openly stated that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for a contender (although I'm not too sure that this whole "flying with the Giants to the All-Star game" really means anything), and the Mets have openly stated that they are taking calls on him.  It's been a while since Sabean has landed a premium hitter, but he just might come July 31st.

 

* I should note that I will be adopting Baseball Prospectus' TAv as my rate metric of choice from here on out for numerous reasons- the most simple being that the scale is far easier for all fans to recognize and because it is always set so the league average is .260.  Furthermore, BP's TAv is far more theoretically sound in terms of the way the run values are generated and in the terms included into the rate (it includes things like infield singles, the manner in which a player reached on an error, strikeouts, productive outs, and avoiding the double play) than the way wOBA is calculated on sites like FanGraphs.

**Little-recognized fact: Victor Wang's research on prospect valuation is based on a model different from WAR, meaning that these numbers, while inexact to begin with, are even more so due to the fact that we're using a model unintended for these figures.  All the same, it serves as a decent baseline.  If I ever get the time, I'd like to update those figures to get them to match WAR or WARP.

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