It's time to find out how much Carlos Beltran likes money.
Buster Olney says that Beltran has a 3 year, $48 million offer on the table, and speculates it could be from the Mariners. They've been linked to him a bunch before, but it's always been pretty safely assumed that Beltran wouldn't be all that interested in going to a non-contending team. Still, that's a pretty huge chunk of change to carry a player through his age 39 season, and we know that money talks, especially when it's a player's last payday. Still, Beltran has already made an estimated $160 million over his career, and this speculation should be taken with a healthy grain of salt. The Mariners may have made the offer, but it is a leap of faith to assume that he'd take it despite the obvious generosity.
I'd rather have Carlos Beltran on that deal than anything Nelson Cruz is about to get, so if signing Beltran to an overpay like that diverts the Mariners away from a sinking inevitability that they're going to land Cruz, so be it. Beltran has seen his UZR decline in two consecutive seasons, costing him around 2 wins last year. He's still got plenty of bat left, and has already passed the primary danger zone of massive decline. Carlos Beltran is a pretty awesome talent, and there's a fairly decent shot he's going to continue to hit through the next two or three years, but the idea of his defense picking back up seems like a risky proposition.
There's been some debate over Beltran's defense of late, especially because he was such a fantastic defender for a significant portion of his career. Metric skeptics claim the defense isn't that bad, but UZR really slapped him around last year, and it took him from the 3-4 win player he would otherwise be to a 2 win player. DRS has graded him out much kinder, dinging him -6 runs this year but assigning a value of +4 in 2012. As is usually the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. It's pretty safe to assume that Beltran isn't a positive asset defensively anymore, and it's also pretty safe to assume that he won't cost the Mariners 20 runs if he signs. You're likely looking at a 2-3.5 win player for next few years, and all bets are off for 2016, because, old.
Still, over the next two years, I'd take Carlos Beltran's bat over Kendrys Morales, and there's a pretty good chance that Beltran is going to end up at DH by 2015 or 2016 anyways. He'll cost a pick to sign, but in an offseason where the Mariners may sign multiple players that require compensation, it isn't nearly as big of a deal. Plus, if they let Morales walk like they should, they'll get one back in return.
We've always known the Mariners were going to have to overpay to get some free agent bats to come here, and they could do a lot worse than this offer to a player of Beltran's caliber. Free agents are expensive. They'll be some squirming over Beltran's age, but he's still an good hitter despite being well past his prime. When I discussed Bartolo Colon, one of the things I stressed was that there's potential bargains to be had by paying for players who have already shown they can perform well past their prime as opposed to paying for talent that might fall apart as soon as the decline phase hits.
Carlos Beltran is a good baseball player, and the Mariners would be improved with him. It seems simplistically stupid, but sometimes the most basic analysis can get lost as we tie ourselves up in the team's money and aging curves. It's probably going to be more money than he'll end up being worth, but it could also come out to a fair market deal if he can keep hitting/shift to DH eventually. It's expensive to go shopping on the free market for wins, and Beltran seems like a safer bet than many to provide them. Wouldn't you rather the Mariners overpay for good players than mediocre ones?
$48 million for Beltran's talent doesn't make me squirm. Nelson Cruz for $60 million makes me squirm.