Posted December 07, 2013

Carlos Beltran a nice addition, but he won’t solve the Yankees’ problems

Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
Carlos Beltran and the Yankees agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal. (David E. Klutho/SI)

Carlos Beltran and the Yankees agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal. (David E. Klutho/SI)

In what has been an unbelievably busy week of Hot Stove action, no team has been busier than the New York Yankees.

After coming to terms with Carlos Beltran on a three-year contract worth $45 million Friday night, the Yanks have committed $217 million over 12 player seasons to four free agents (Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroku Kuroda, and Kelly Johnson, the first three with a combined average annual value of $19.5 million). New York has also lost two other free agents to a pair of contracts worth a combined $300 million (Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson), non-tendered three players, and executed a minor trade that sent their starting catcher from this past season, Chris Stewart, to the Pirates, all over the course of five business days.

Coming as it does in the immediate wake of the Cano and Granderson departures, the Beltran signing can’t help but appear to be a reaction to those losses. The Yankees, however, have been targeting Beltran all along, and it’s not hard to see why. Though he will be 37 in April and 39 in the final year of his new contract, Beltran has experienced a second life in the wake of the knee injuries that briefly derailed his career in 2009 and 2010. In the three seasons since, Beltran has hit .288/.356/.503 while averaging 26 homers, 88 RBIs and 146 games played despite playing for three teams — the Mets, Giants and Cardinals — all of which play in pitchers’ parks in the National League, where giving Beltran’s old legs a rest via a start at designated hitter was an infrequent luxury.

Indeed, Beltran made just nine regular season starts at DH over those three seasons, but he is likely to find himself at the position more often in his return to the American League ten years after the Royals traded him to the Astros.

With the additions this week of Ellsbury and Beltran, the Yankees, despite the departure of Granderson, have a well-populated outfield. Ellsbury is an All-Star center fielder. Incumbent center fielder Brett Gardner, one of the best defensive outfielders in the game as well as a top-of-the-order speedster with solid on-base numbers, will be pushed to left field. Beltran, another former center fielder, will be the primary right fielder, though he and the soon-to-be-38-year-old Alfonso Soriano, who are of roughly equal value in the field at this point in their careers, are likely to toggle between right and DH. Given the injury histories of Ellsbury and Gardner, they could also often occupy both corners, opening designated hitter for members of the Yankees’ aging infield.

The move to the DH league and a hitter-friendly park is a smart one for Beltran, though this is surely his last multi-year contract. It should benefit the Yankees in a similar fashion, if not by increasing Beltran’s productivity then by softening his likely decline as he continues into his late 30s. At the same time, signing Beltran now is a bitter pill for Yankee fans given that nine years ago he was, according to Tom Verducci and Joe Torre’s The Yankee Years, “willing to take a 20 percent discount” to sign with the Yankees and succeed fellow Puerto Rican Bernie Williams in center field. Instead, the Yankees signed Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and, at George Steinbrenner’s behest, traded for Randy Johnson while Beltran went on to pad his Hall of Fame credentials with the crosstown Mets.

Nonetheless, Beltran makes the Yankees considerably better even after all of these years, and returns to New York having stoked his reputation as one of the game’s great postseason hitters having hit .306/.410/.571 in 118 postseason at-bats for the Cardinals over the last two Octobers. The Yankees, however, are no longer a lock to play in October on an annual basis.

As strong and deep as their outfield now is (the Beltran signing pushes Ichiro Suzuki to the bench and Vernon Wells that much closer to what seems like his inevitable release), and despite the addition two weeks ago of All-Star catcher Brian McCann, the Yankees infield is a potential disaster. Cano is now a Mariner. Alex Rodriguez still faces a major suspension. Derek Jeter is coming off a twice-broken ankle that never fully healed and, along with other leg injuries, limited him to 17 games last year. And Mark Teixeira is coming off a twice torn tendon sheath in his right wrist that similarly limited him to 15 games last year following a steady decline in production in his early 30s. In other words, the Yankees have very little to bank on in the infield.

VERDUCCI: Mariners got Cano by showing him the money Yankees wouldn’t

Even if they are able to play in the coming season, Jeter will be 40 in June, Rodriguez, who has been limited to an average of 88 games played over the last three seasons due to injury, will be 39 in July, and Teixeira will be 34 in April. Kelly Johnson, who currently stands as the team’s projected second baseman, has hit .226/.307/.395 over the last three years despite playing in hitter-friendly ballparks in Arizona and Toronto in two of those three seasons, while the primary backups either can’t hit (Brendan Ryan: .217/.283/.294 over the last four seasons) or can’t field (Eduardo Nuñez, who was 2. 3 wins below replacement in the field in 2013).

Then there’s the Yankees’ goal of staying under the $189 million competitive balance tax threshold for the coming season in order to reset their tax rate. Based on the average annual values of their contracts, which is how they are measured when assessing the tax, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran, Kuroda, Johnson, and Ryan have increased the Yankees’ 2014 payroll by $75.36 million, putting their estimated 2014 payroll at $171.66 million, a figure which doesn’t include the salaries of arbitration eligible players such as Gardner, David Robertson, and Ivan Nova, or of the pre-arbitration players who will fill out the roster, who should eat up the remaining $17.34 million.

A full-season suspension for Rodriguez would clear roughly $27.5 million in additional cap room with which the Yankees could sign a replacement for Rodriguez and possibly make some necessary upgrades on the pitching staff, particularly in the bullpen. However, with teams so active this offseason, the Yankees’ options in such areas are dwindling quickly while they wait for the arbitrator’s verdict on Rodriguez, which isn’t due until January 15, though it could come earlier that month. What’s more, Rodriguez is hoping to continue his case against baseball in federal court thereafter, which could result in his suspension being further delayed via an injunction.

Despite committing a combined $283 million to three of free agency’s biggest prizes over the last two weeks, the Yankees could well miss the playoffs again in 2014, doing so in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992 and ’93. That, or they could abandon their luxury tax plan, a move which would call in to question the decision making behind last offseason’s thriftiness and the hard-line the team took on Cano. In either case, Beltran, regardless of his performance over the next three seasons, could come to serve as a daily reminder of past decisions gone wrong, an aging version of the player the Yankees should have signed a decade ago. The idea that such a reminder could prompt a long-overdue front-office shakeup in the Yankees’ often dysfunctional and seemingly calcified leadership structure, however, seems like wishful thinking.

71 comments
William27
William27

the yanks should have signed him 9 years ago

they sure don't know what they are doing

William27
William27

as a yankee fan I think this is absurd, 3 years !!!??? insane

jtprescott102188
jtprescott102188

Its pitching that wins now. The days of a lineup with six 30 homerun guys are over. The Yankees pitching is aweful. Lets not forget, no more Mo Rivera. They should have went after pitching! All in all, they are in this position because of the lack of a farm system. Look at the Sox and the Cardinals... they continue to lose good players yet its fine for them because the have young, cheap, major league ready talet in their system. This Yankee organization has been so mismanaged it hurts to watch. (And I'm a Red Sox fan) don't forget THEY ARE LOSING DRAFT PICKS FROM THESE SIGNINGS TOO!!! Just plain dumb. They are in dire straights. They're only saving grace is that they are a cash cow and at some point may buy their way out of this mess. But not this year.

slickwilly
slickwilly

3 years, $45 million seems like a bit much to pay to an aging OF with a history of injuries, but Beltran certainly earned it with his play these last few years. He helped the Giants win a championship and helped the Cardinals get to a World Series. His reputation as a clutch postseason player probably didn't hurt either.

effeweall
effeweall

The Yankees had no interest in Cano.  He is not marketable.  He looks like he plays with little effort.  He proved his worth when he went 0-32 in the playoffs.  but all the stat geeks disstract "fans" with their valuation of players.  Cano hit 307 with less then 30 HR and 107 RBIs.  This is proof WAR is a garbage stat.  If WAR meant anything why didn't Cano get 7 offers from all the big market teams?  For the same reason Orteez signed with Boston for 6 mil a year.  They play in garbage parks and are PED relics.


Beltran, Soriano, Ellsbury will have monster years in Whiffle Stadium.  and draw attention thru the media, the true goal of all teams.  3 million sapps at whiffle stadium generates 270 million in revenue.  NOT including the Luxury boxes.  Then factor in evenue and people are worried about Yankees overspending?


The AL East is horrid.  A-rod gone and Tex being his useless non-ped self and the Yankees can still be competitive with 3 starters.  Everyone still believes in the fairy tale, "its a failure if the Yankees dont win a WS".

GodofAcid
GodofAcid

Yankees fans better pray that they win the Tanaka sweepstakes and he's the real deal.

NEsports27
NEsports27

Wells, Soriano, Beltran, Ichiro-OFers in Yankee Stadium will be scheduled around AARP meetings this year

parkbrav
parkbrav

"The idea that such a reminder could prompt a long-overdue front-office shakeup in the Yankees’ often dysfunctional and seemingly calcified leadership structure, however, seems like wishful thinking."

Great. Sounds like more of the same nonsense from the front office with similar or the same results and no consequences to follow. Tell me, where do I go to sign up for such a job in the real world?

parkbrav
parkbrav

"A full-season suspension for Rodriguez would clear roughly $27.5 million in additional cap room with which the Yankees could sign a replacement for Rodriguez and possibly make some necessary upgrades on the pitching staff, particularly in the bullpen"

So, I got to say, this sounds like the Yankees have at least an incentive to root against A-Rod's appeal. That sounds like a perverse incentive to me. Shouldn't the Yankees be in A-Rod's corner?

Bazelope
Bazelope

Didn't Carlos Beltran already prove that the DIM Lights of Queens were too much for him?  Now he thinks he can play in the Bronx?   The Yankees are desperate times 5.  Billy Beane is probably laughing his BUTT OFF!

kathydavis01
kathydavis01

He thinks he hot stuff!  Never could stand the dude. I remember him when he was playing for the Astros.  He's a greedy Mexican that's all he is.

BleedPinstripes1
BleedPinstripes1

C'mon Cash - sign Infante.  We'll all feel a bit better.  Wouldn't be surprised to bring in Choo to have Gardner as trade bait to bolster the rotation.  Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Phelps (and hopefully Tanaka) is a group that can make a run in '14.  Anyone know the status of Pineda?        

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

The Yankees never learn. They have fielded a team of ancient players the past three years and gotten nowhere. More money poured down the rat hole of over 30 somethings. I'll be laughing when half the roster is on the DL...again!

woodybrosnan
woodybrosnan

This is a much better lineup than what the Yankees fielded last year because of all the injuries. They did not have Soriano until the last two months. The question mark is whether all these older players can stay healthy. Soriano and Ichiro will probably see a lot of time in the outfield. I think they will sign Infante to make it even better.  Tampa Bay and Baltimore have done nothing to counter, yet.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

I thought only the Phillies were allowed to sign old free agents that wont do anything to materially improve the team.  

Robertinho77
Robertinho77

I think that this is a well thought out article and it makes sense if one thinks that at the end of the day the Yankees will actually not try and win it all, problem is they want fans at the stadium and I bet once Beltran came on board ticket sales went up and Sterling already is thinking of his HR call "Beltran Belts One!!!!!", I mean Matt Harvey is 20+ and he is hurt there are no guarantees that anyone will stay healthy. What I know is that they filled three positions for the price of one and a player whose performance will begin to decline as soon as the ink is dry on that mega ten year deal. We are playing for 14, where the article is totally right is in the obvious lack of competence that the Yankee front office has in shaking up the worst scouting department there is, in the 05 draft they went for the immortal CJ Henry and passed on: Ellsbury, Buckholz, and Jed Lowerie. Cashman and Co should be gone but ASAP

psychsports
psychsports

The signing of Carlos Beltran is a great signing for the New York Yankees for a lot of reasons.

First he adds another dependable bat in the lineup and definitely is an upgrade in right field over who they have now. Ichiro Suzuki and who else?  They cannot have all speed boys in the outfield with similar styles of play.

Beltran adds heft and is more of slugger type than say Suzuki or Brett Gardner.

Derek Jeter more than likely will not be around in three years and Betran will extend his career as a DH. He is a switch hitter and will benefit from the short porch.

The Yankees are doing this in a piecemeal fashion but one that makes a lot of sense. They are in a void in terms of A-Rod and cannot wait on him. Given all that the Yankees could not wait and had to make moves—and they did!

Many can say they over paid for all three and there is no doubt they did, it was clear they would have to pay out of the nose for Cano for ten years which proved to be not palatable.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and now Beltran what next? 


http://psychologyofsports.com/2013/12/07/carlos-beltran-a-brilliant-move-by-yankees/

Doctego
Doctego

Carlos Beltran has never won a World Series.

jtprescott102188
jtprescott102188

You need more then 2 good starters and 1 POTENTIALLY good one. Plus CC and Kuroda are old as dirt. Who knows if this is the drop off year. They'll score runs. But they will allow even more. Remember, no Rivera. They are worse off then last year. Plus its PITCHING that wins now. Look at Angels, Dodgers, And even Detroit. You need great starters AND a good pen. Offense means so much less. (Btw outfeilders with a .350 obp are a dime a dozen. Check the stats.)

jtprescott102188
jtprescott102188

"Beltran, Soriano, and Ellsbury will have monster years" - thats if they stay hel

JerryBelle
JerryBelle

@parkbrav - Should you be in someone's corner that has lied to you, misrepresented himself as honest, and is smearing your brand in the media?  How much crap should the Yankees put up with and when is enough enough?  The appeal process is already stifling the Yankees from knowing what they should be addressing.... the quotes you cite are from the media, not the Yankee front office too.

Rico1
Rico1

@Bazelope Billy Beane hasn't won a WS yet. Stay quiet, pleas.

effeweall
effeweall

@Bazelope shea and citifield are horrible parks to hit in.  ny media is all over players.  the mets are the red headed stepchilds of that city.  Yankee stadium is a whiffleball park.  Beltran has hit decent pitching in the playoffs.  will he wilt under the media scrutiny?  i think he will fare much better in yankee stadium for 81 games then shea/citifield.

JerryBelle
JerryBelle

@kathydavis01 - what a p.o.s. you are...he's of Puerto Rican descent not that it matters to a racist like you. 

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

You mean as opposed to being a mean-spirited whatever you are?

Semantics
Semantics

Wait a minute: they just signed their FIFTH outfielder, and you want them to trade one away (an arbitration eligible rent-a-player, which no rebuilding team wants) to make room for ANOTHER? Are you insane?

Disney Vasquez
Disney Vasquez

Wow you're a retard! Get a life and a clue dumbass!

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

In this case, not just a 30-something, but a 37-something.  And signing him for 3 years!  Apparently they don't learn.

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

If Ichiro is playing a lot, then the Yankees are seriously hurting.  He's one of the worst starting outfielders in the majors.  In 2013 he hit .262 with just 25 extra base hits, had a pathetic .297 OBP.   His defense has dropped off to where he is major league average.  And now he's going to be 40 in 2014.  A pale shadow of what he used to be.

Semantics
Semantics

Tampa doesn't need to do anything to counter. They finished ahead of New York, while Baltimore tied with them record-wise. The Yankees had to make moves to catch up with THEM, and unless some good starters suddenly decide to quit from their current contracts and take measly contracts to play in that sandlot of a ballpark, the Yankees won't be able to do anything other than watch themselves lose games 15-12 all year.

Semantics
Semantics

So are they going to move to a softball-style defensive scheme, playing 10 players with four outfielders? If they did, they'd still have an extra one to sit on the bench. Beltran, Gardner, Ellsbury, Wells, and Suzuki add up to five guys. Left field, center field, and right field add up to three positions. Yeah, Beltran is a competitor and a talented player, but how the hell is this a good signing unless two of those outfielders figure out how to be solid starting pitchers or closers?


You do realize that half of the game is run prevention, right?

Rico1
Rico1

@jtprescott102188 Angels? And hello? Red Sox won all year from scoring runs. They did not have the best pitching staff by any means.

RaymondSmith
RaymondSmith

@JerryBelle @parkbrav Why should they be in his corner? He lied thru his teeth, stole from them, and left them in a terrible position. F********k arod. 

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

@Semantics DH/RF rotation on Soriano and Beltran, Ells in CF, Gardner LF, Wells (Yanks don't owe him more than a few peanuts) will be cut. In his proposed scenario, Choo would simply step in LF and Gardner would be traded. Use your brain dude, its Hot Stove season so there are a lot more perspectives than just yours

William27
William27

you think everyone is stupid but you are a TROLL !!!!!!!!!!!!

Disney Vasquez
Disney Vasquez

Wow you're a moron! Get a clue about baseball dumbass!

DanCamporese
DanCamporese

The yankees were decimated by injuries last year, so unless you think they will all get injured again, they would automatically be better than last year.

iammagicland
iammagicland

Wells was originally signed to DH against lefties. He wasn't intended as an every day player. Injuries forced him to be. He'll platoon at DH, and give them a good bat to come off the bench as a late inning PH. Soriano and Beltran (and perhaps Ichiro) will take turns in RF. Gardner isn't going anywhere, the organization is already talking about him batting second behind Ellsbury.

DanCamporese
DanCamporese

They are going to trade gardner.  Obviously they are not done making moves yet...Also don't even mention vernon wells.  If he gets playing time this season we have already lost.

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

@BryanCustard @Semantics With what money? $189 million luxury tax is not an opinion. They're not going to blow it out just to swap outfielders when they've already let Cano go to avoid it.

William27
William27

you think everyone is stupid but you are a TROLL !!!!!!!!!!!!

William27
William27

considering how they sign old or injury prone players that is a good assumption to make !!!!

Semantics
Semantics

That's only somewhat true, though. A-Rod isn't really anything more than a middle-of-the-road 3b, Jeter is a husk at shortstop, Teixeira hasn't looked like anything more than a more oft injured Adam Dunn over the past three years, and you really don't know what you have yet in Pineda. I don't deny that the injuries had an effect on them, but that's a consequence of the type of team they chose to build, and it doesn't really look to me like they've learned at all from the mistake.

Semantics
Semantics

That's still an absurd logjam involving players making a ton of money. They didn't sign Beltran to platoon, and the same can be said for Ichiro. They have to convince some stupid team to take on one of those contracts, or they've got themselves a $90 million outfield balancing act that will play out like a circus while their pitching continues to regress into utter mediocrity.

This team needed to get younger, to invest in youth and the farm. Boston won the World Series because they refocused their efforts toward player development and stopgap contracts with high class, short-term-deal types of players. They now have Baseball America's #1 ranked farm system, and they're coming off a World Series title with a roster that looks like it can still contend. The Yankees are continuing to do things the way that worked more in the PED saturated 1990s and early 2000s: even if they win now, they're in a tough spot down the line, as they'll have a collection of A-Rod type contracts that will clog their ability to invest in younger free agents.

Semantics
Semantics

Does Gardner have anywhere near enough trade value to be the headliner in a package for a #2 starter, though? Sabathia's regression was pretty steep last year, and Kuroda's second half wasn't all that inspiring either. The free agent market for pitching is cripplingly thin, and I highly doubt that in spite of his name, Cashman won't be able to spend to the capacity necessary to build a championship pitching staff.

Their offense is obviously pretty formidable, but even if it's better than what Boston and Tampa have to offer, I don't see any way their staff matches up remotely well with either of them.