Carlos Beltran joining the Yankees would normally be a momentous occasion on its own, but it was simply the final touch on what became an insane Friday for Major League Baseball. Beltran was the third of three major free agents to switch teams, with Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson also changing allegiances, and his signing came right on the heels of Mike Napoli’s two-year return to the Red Sox.
This is as good a time as any for your reminder that the winter meetings haven’t started yet.
It’s fitting that Beltran would sign with the Yankees on the same day that Cano and Granderson left, as he’s responsible, in part, for replacing the production of those two. Granderson inked a four-year, $60 million deal with the crosstown Mets, and Cano took off for the Seattle Mariners on a 10-year, $240 million contract that was reportedly for $65 million more than the Yankees offered. That’s $300 million the Yankees would have needed to spend to retain the pair, but instead, they brought in Beltran — and two others — for less than that, and without having to throw a decade-long commitment in there to boot.
Beltran is the cheapest of the free-agent trio that includes Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and Brian McCann (five years, $85 million). Combined, the three account for $283 million, which is more than Cano cost, sure, but it will also cover multiple positions, and keep the Yankees from having the holes in their lineup that helped doom them to a third-place, playoff-less 2013. Ellsbury’s signing pushed Brett Gardner out of center field to left, and Beltran is now slated to start in right field, where the lesser ground to cover will make his job easier in his (for baseball purposes anyway) advanced years.
The move also allows the Yankees to keep Alfonso Soriano out of the outfield, and instead use him as the designated hitter, where he can continue to mash homers while avoiding defensive work with the same regularity that he avoids walking. In addition, it makes Ichiro Suzuki, who has hit just .280/.310/.376 with the Yankees, expendable, or, at the least, a piece on the bench.
Even if Beltran starts to slip at the plate over the course of the deal, he’s likely to produce enough to satisfy the Yankees, who have not been able to rely on their farm system for replacements. In his two years with the Cardinals, Beltran hit .282/.343/.493 despite playing his games in a pitcher-friendly park that lessened power production from both sides of the plate — a concern for the switch-hitting Beltran. Now, he’s in the newest iteration of Yankee Stadium, where homers for both right-handed and left-handed batters fly out far more regularly than at Busch, and it should show up in his numbers, even if his skills begin to decline as he nears 40.
Three years might seem like too many, at least at $15 million per, but the Yankees don’t have on-hand replacements, and the threat of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons was too great, even if it means Plan $189 Million is now in jeopardy. The Yankees might have created the mess that forced them to spend this much on free agency in the span of a week, but at least they’re back to spending like it’s a strength of theirs, and not something to be avoided.