Jobu welcomes the newest Yankees free agent acquisition, Carlos Beltran!
When Robinson Cano left the Yankees for the greener (as in dollars) pastures of Seattle, the Yankees suddenly found themselves with $175MM free dollars to spend. By the end of the day, they had signed Hiroki Kuroda to shore up the second spot in the rotation, and Carlos Beltran to a three year, $48MM deal. I don’t think anyone was shocked to see this happen once Cano left (note: we will discuss this departure when the dust settles, aka more dirt gets dug up on Robinson). Anyway, there’s a lot to know about Carlos, so let’s get to it.
The Journey to the Bronx
The 36-year old from Manatí, Puerto Rico has enjoyed a lengthy, and successful career. He was originally selected by the Royals in the second round of the 1995 draft, and made his debut for Kansas City as a September call up in 1998. The then 21-year old played in 14 games and hit .276/.317/.466, but didn’t hit a ball over the fence. That’s OK, because the next year, he hit .293/.337/.454, with 112 runs, 22 homers 108 RBI, 27 steals and took home the American League Rookie of the Year Award. After a sophomore slump in 2000, he picked things up and became a perennial 100+ RBI man for the Royals. He was dealt to Houston at the 2003 trade deadline. The Royals knew they wouldn’t be able to sign him, so they sent him to the Astros, in a three team deal. The Astros ended up with Beltran, while the Royals ended up with John Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood. The A’s were the third team, and they brought home Octavio Dotel.
Beltran exploded onto the national scene that post-season, hitting 8 home runs and driving in 14 runs for the Astros, who lost in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. We’ll be covering Beltran’s post-season prowess later in this post, but that was the first of many playoff heroics for the outfielder. At the end of that season, Beltran became a free agent, and his journey to becoming a Yankee really began. There was no secret that Beltran wanted to play for the Yankees. He even famously offered Brian Cashman and the Yankees a discount to sign in the Bronx. When the Yankees opted, instead, to sign Gary Sheffield, Beltran signed the biggest contract of his career, a seven year, $119MM deal, with the crosstown Mets.
After a bad first year in Queens, Beltran rebounded in 2006, hitting 41 homers for the Mets and leading them to the NLCS, where he famously took a called strike three from Adam Wainwright to send the Mets home. Met’s fans still don’t forgive him for that one, unfortunately. Beltran again topped 25 homers and 110 RBI the next two seasons (2007, 2008), but lost much of the next two years (2009 and 2010) to injuries, leading many fans and reporters to call him a bust of sorts. He bounced back nicely in 2011, however, but the Mets traded him to the Giants at the deadline for Zach Wheeler, who is now in their starting rotation. Beltran hit free agency again that year, and was rumored to be on the Yankees’ radar again. He wanted to come to the Bronx, but the Yankees were, again, not interested, so he signed with the Cardinals.
After two healthy and productive seasons for the Redbirds, Carlos became a free agent again, and the rumors of a perfect marriage with the Yankees began swirling. The Yankees wanted a middle-of-the-order bat to play right field, and Beltran was still pining to jplay in the Bronx. For a while, it seemed like it would happen. Then, when the Yankees signed Ellsbury, which moved Gardner to left and Soriano to right, the courtship seemed over again, and it seemed Beltran was heading back to the Royals to finish things where they started. Then the bombshell that Robinson Cano was leaving dropped. That freed up a ton of money, and Beltran was a Yankee less than six hours later. The roller coaster ride was over, and the Yankees had their man.
Now that the Yankees have their man, what can he give them? Well, we’ve been over his stats, but let’s take a longer look at what Beltran has accomplished in his career. In his 16 major league seasons, Beltran has racked up 2,246 hits, 358 homers, 1,327 RBI and even stolen 308 career bases. His .283/.359/.486 slash lines won’t get him to Cooperstown, but he’s been a solid middle-of-the-order bat for a long time that, along with Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, should help ease the departure of Cano.
If the Yankees are able to turn things around enough to make it to the post season, they have a proven commodity in Beltran. As I mentioned earlier, Beltran hit 8 homers during his first taste of the post season. He hasn’t slowed down much since. In 51 career playoff games, Carlos is slashing .333/.445/.683, with 16 homers, 40 RBI and 11 steals. Averaged out over a full season of games, that’s roughly 48 homers, 120 RBI and 33 steals. That’s pretty solid, and should help him fit in in New York (assuming Cashman finishes building the infield and starting rotation).
There are some concerns to this signing. First of all, three years is a long time for a 36 year old. When he finishes this contract, Carlos will be 39. Not only that, but he also has that shady history when it comes to injuries, especially to his knees. Finally, as seems to happen with a lot of older players, his walk rate has progressively dropped over the last few seasons. He was never a 100 walk kind of guy, but was regularly around 60-70 bases on balls. Last year, he managed only 38 walks, a career low. However, unlike the norm, his drop in BBs wasn’t accompanied by a rise in strikeouts. In fact, he struck out 34 less times in 2013 than he did in 2012 (in just 5 fewer games). I’m not sure if the walks dropped because he’s being more aggressive on early fastballs in his old age, or because he was surrounded by good hitters, but it could be a cause for concern.
I think, if he can stay healthy, Beltran brings a lot of positives to this lineup. First of all, he’s another switch hitter. For most of last season, the Yankees didn’t have any switch hitters in the lineup. This seems criminal for a team that has, at times, boasted two or three two-siders in the lineup. The return of Mark Teixeira gives the Yankees two legitimate switch hitters that can take pitchers deep from either side of the dish. Gotta like that. Beltran should slot nicely somewhere between the third and sixth spots in the lineup. Either way, he’ll have some protection around him. Also, with Ellsbury and possibly Gardner or a healthy Derek Jeter at the top of the order, he should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. He’ll also be happy to finally be playing in the Bronx, which could boost his numbers. I’m going to go hefty with my predictions for him. I’m going to say he’ll hit somewhere between .260 and .280 with 30 homers and 100 RBI, all assuming he stays in the lineup of course.
Glad to have you here Carlos, see you in April!
Featured image courtesy of: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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