When a friend with inside knowledge told me on Tuesday (before it was being reported elsewhere) that free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran was visiting Kauffman Stadium and being wooed like a five star recruit—replete with the highlight real on the scoreboard and the shining number 15 below it—I went through something akin to the Kubler-Ross Model, only without the grief, and with a couple of less steps.
What I mean to say, I suppose, is that I had a lot of sweeping, mixed emotions.
First, I was jubilant. I texted my friend back with lots of nonsensical letters strung together, misplaced exclamation points, and more than a few incoherent curse words. CARSLOS BELLLLITRAN!@!@@$$!!!!!, R U KIDDING ME? HOLY FLUCK!!SHT,,,
Something like that.
Then, I heard what someone—not necessarily the Royals (the Seattle Mariners are courting him heavily, as well)—was offering. 3 yrs/$48m. Three years, forty-eight million. Dollars. USD. THREE YEARS.
Two things jumped out at me about the offer that made me cringe, and reconsider my initial, pant-pissing excitement.
1) Three years is a LOOOOOONG time for an outfielder with a history of health problems who’ll turn 37 at the beginning of next season.
2) $48mil—on a team already “strapped for cash”—would mean that something—or someone, rather—would have to go. In all likelihood, that’d be Billy Butler, the guy who makes a decent chunk of change and “plays” the “position” that Beltran would likely usurp: designated hitter.
So, second thing first: replacing Billy Butler. Since Beltran’s knees are crippled, arthritic, and mostly made of repurposed space-shuttle pieces, his outfield duties would mostly be an afterthought. He’d spend a majority of the time doing what he does best these days—batting. And that’s all fine and well—he’s a hell of a hitter, still—but is he really that much better than Butler?
I honestly didn’t know, so I took a look.
Over the past five years—playing in 160 games per year—Butler has averaged 40 doubles, 20 HR, 91 RBI, a .302 average, a .372 on-base-percentage, and an .840 on-base+slugging percentage. He has also grounded into an average of 23 double-plays over that period, something that remains THE most important statistic to his detractors. (I just had a conversation about Butler with a coworker, and the GIDP issue came up. He said, “ALL HE DOES IS HIT INTO DOUBLE PLAYS. I know, I’m the only guy in Kansas City who’d be glad to see him go.” No, no you wouldn’t.)
Beltran’s numbers over that same span? I was a little surprised—116 games played per year on average, 26 doubles, 19 HR, 68 RBI, .289 AVG, .365 OBP, and an .853 OPS. Oh—but he hits into half as many double plays. So… there’s that. An injury-riddled final two years with the New York Mets obviously had a significant impact on these figures, but, well, that’s something that needs to be considered. Injuries. A history of them. And yeah, he’d probably miss less time as a primary DH, but when you have a primary DH who’s making considerably less? It’s hard to rectify changing things.
Look, I’d LOVE to have Beltran back. He’s a great guy, has had an outstanding career (I’ve made my Hall of Fame case for him before [it has a lot to do with being quite possibly the most prolific postseason hitter ever]) and there’s something to be said for the “coming full circle” aspect of professional athletics—especially in baseball where such things are a bit more rare. But—and it’s a pretty huge but—I just can’t justify paying that much for someone with a diminished skill-set.
The Royals need pitching (now and forever), they need a second-baseman and they need an outfielder. Carlos Beltran is none of these things, unfortunately. He’s simply a replacement for someone who already does the job he’d be taking. Someone who does the job well enough already, at that.
I love you like a brother, Carlos, and wish you all the best… just not in KC.