Yesterday, it was reported by a number of sources that Carlos Beltran had been offered a 3 year/$48 Million contract. With teams such as the Yankees and Mariners rumored to be in the mix for Beltran’s services, it was expected that one of those teams likely made the offer. However, a couple of hours later, it was determined that the offer had been made by none other than the Royals, as they seek to bring Beltran back to Kansas City.
The idea of bringing the prodigal son back into the fold so that Beltran can close out his potentially Hall of Fame career as a member of the Royals certainly has it’s merits. Although it has been almost a decade since Beltran wore the blue and white, he remains a fan favorite, and people would likely head out to Kauffman to watch his return. From a marketing standpoint alone, signing Beltran would be a major victory. And to outbid the Yankees to bring Beltran back? An even bigger reason to celebrate his homecoming.
However, of more importance to us fans, there is the on-the-field aspect of what this signing means. A three year deal takes Beltran from ages 37 through 39, not exactly the prime years for anyone not named Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. This deal is very likely to produce diminishing returns on the field as Beltran approaches the final year on the contract.
Now, Carlos Beltran certainly had an excellent 2013, producing a .296/.339/.491 batting line. His OPS+ of 128, identical to 2012, would have led the Royals by ten points over Eric Hosmer. Yet, as good as his 2013 season was, there were still signs of regression. Beltran stole just two bases last season, and while he is not going to be the 30/30 player he was in years past, this comes just one year after he stole 13 bases. He also hit only 24 home runs, which would have been good enough to lead the Royals, but is still eight fewer home runs than what he hit last season. His defense has been below league average for the past two seasons, and as he gets older, is not likely to suddenly improve.
Then there is the list of players that Beltran is most comparable to at age 36. There are some big names on there, such as Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Andre Dawson. While several of those players had solid seasons at age 37, only Winfield was able to continue to produce after that season. In fact, four of those players were out of baseball by the end of their age 37 season. While that is not a guarantee that the Beltran signing will turn out disastrous, the track record of similar players at that age is not encouraging.
In all likelihood, Beltran will be able to provide the Royals with that middle of the order bat that they need, at least for a season or maybe two. However, there will come the point where Beltran simply does not live up to the contract, and it may happen sooner rather than later. Yet, if the Royals make the postseason in 2014, will it really matter what happens afterwards?
Signing Carlos Beltran would certainly be a marketing home run for the Royals. However, that same statement cannot be said with any certainty when it comes to how the contract would match his on field performance.