Analysis

Free Agent Pass or Play: Carlos Beltran

Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.

Performance

Beltran signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals after a bounce-back 2011 where he hit .300/.385/.525 with 22 HRs. Then 34, Beltran was considered a great injury risk having played in only 81 and 64 games respectively in 2009 and 2010, but managed to land $26 million.

According to FanGraphs, Beltran slightly under-performed the $26 million value over 2012 and 2013 ($25.1 million of value) but drastically over-performed most expectations with a combined .282/.343/.493 in 1219 PA. Beltran was a key contributor to a pair of Cardinals teams that won three playoff series in two years, including an NL pennant.

Beltran has been Steady Eddie since attaining full health in 2011 but did have a career-low walk-rate and a career low two steals in 2013. Beltran is still an above-average hitter for average and power and also still has a great arm, as displayed in Game One of the NLCS when he threw out Mark Ellis at the plate. He likely no longer has the ability to steal double-digit bases and FanGraphs’ defensive metrics show a rapid drop off in performance, although, warnings about defensive metric volatility and all that apply.

Fit

The Phillies are obviously in need of at least one outfielder and they would prefer that player to be right-handed. As a switch hitter, Beltran has hit .286/.356/.530 as a righty against lefties in his career but hit only .252/.281/.448 last year in the same situations, down from .276/.329/.538 in 2012. If the Phillies are looking for someone to mash lefties, Beltran’s rapid deterioration against lefties as a righty should make them pause, as should his declining fielding.

Cost

According to FanGraphs’ awesome crowd sourcing project, Beltran will likely get a contract of two years for about $12 million to $13.5 million a year.

Feasibility

This one is tough – my instincts tell me Beltran, as a career .333/.445/.683 postseason hitter, would want to sign with a sure-fire contender. The Phillies don’t currently fit that bill. I’m not opposed to, however, putting veterans on one and two year deals in the outfield, particularly when they’re not blocking anyone with high upside. I don’t think Amaro will target Beltran specifically but I do think he could emerge as a fallback option if Amaro’s Plan A falls through.

Verdict: Play, But Tread Lightly

Beltran is pretty interesting. If the Phillies are able to nab a top five outfielder and still have a few million to spare, adding Beltran at that point would be worth it as an “all-in” move. If not, I don’t see Beltran as a good idea. He doesn’t add anything to the Phillies’ horrible defensive outfield and by the end of the second year, may not be much of an upgrade of what they already have.

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