On Friday evening, the Yankees and free agent right fielder, Carlos Beltran agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract. Beltran, who turns 37-years-old in April, has always wanted to don pinstripes and will immediately slide into right field. Beltran posted a very impressive 2013 campaign, belting 24 home runs while posting an impressive .296/.339/.491 line. Beltran has a reputation of being injury-prone, but he has played in at least 140 games in 12 of his 15 seasons. More recently, Beltran has averaged 146 games played over the last three seasons.
Defensively, Beltran graded out very poorly last season. Beltran’s -15.3 UZR graded out in the bottom third of qualified National League outfielders. Beltran has had issues with his knees, so the Yankees can spell him occasionally as the DH. In addition, Beltran’s on-base percentage has steadily declined over the last five seasons. Beltran’s on-base percentage is directly connected to his walk rate which has fallen from 13 percent in 2009 to just 6 percent last season. Beltran hit just .252/.281/.448 against lefties last season.
Over the last three seasons, Beltran graded out as a 4.3, 3.3, and 2.0 win player, respectively. By signing Beltran to a three-year deal with a $15 million average annual salary, the Yankees are betting Beltran can match his 2013 production and return 2.0 wins per season. The Yankees will likely extract value by giving him more swings as a designated hitter. Beltran’s switch hitting is an added bonus for a lineup that is suddenly lefty-heavy, but Beltran slides in as the team’s most prolific left-handed power bat.
There are some obvious concerns regarding the length of the contract, his defensive shortcomings (namely his knees), and the age 37 season for sluggers. Many sluggers saw drastic offensive outputs after their Age 36 seasons. The most noteworthy example is Manny Ramirez who watched his home run total fell from 37 to 19. Unlike the Ellsbury deal, I have a hard time seeing how the Yankees can reach value on this deal. Conservative projections would profile Beltran as a 4.5 win player during his three-years in pinstripes. Obviously the Yankees think he’ll provide more value, but that remains to be seen.
Short term, Carlos Beltran upgrades the RF/DH position for the Bombers. He’ll use his favorable lefty splits to take advantage of the short porch in right field. Beltran will likely hit second or third and will have many opportunities to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter. As a young player, Beltran idolized fellow countryman, Bernie Williams, and always wanted to be a member of the Yankees. Beltran received his opportunity to put on the pinstripes and help the Yankees try to win #28. I have a hard time believing the Yankees will extract value out of this contract, but short term, Beltran makes the team better in 2014.