Carlos Beltran: What Would a Fair Return Look Like?

So this series of rumors on MLB Trade Rumors made me laugh when I read them this morning:

- Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes the Rangers are pushing hardest for Beltran, followed by the Braves and Red Sox. The Giants and Phillies appear to be fading, Sherman writes (on Twitter).
– The Rangers and Giants appear to be ahead of the Phillies and Braves in pursuit of Beltran, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). As Crasnick points out, everything can change quickly.
– The Giants and Phillies continue to be the favorites with the Braves still in the mix, tweets Yahoo’s Tim Brown.

Apparently, the Giants and Phillies are fading, while also remaining the favorites . . . oh, but the Rangers are also the favorites, ahead of the Phillies . . . and Atlanta is still in the mix somewhere. No, the Red Sox? This is like one of those logic questions, “if Jill is taller than Jack, but Jean is shorter than Jack, and it’s a Tuesday in June,” only there’s no answer and the question doesn’t make sense.

So even the experts are getting mixed signals, because that’s how these things work. No one really knows where Carlos Beltran is going to be traded, and no one will until it happens. And all it takes is 15 minutes on Baseball-Reference to figure out teams potentially interested in Beltran (competitive teams with an open corner outfield spot off — the top of my head: Braves, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox, Rangers, Pirates and Reds), so it’s not hard to start a rumor. But for the purpose of this post, I’m not interested where Carlos Beltran goes, where it’s likely that he goes, or what Carlos Beltran ate for lunch today. (Skyline chili? Okay, I’m sort of interested in that.) I’m interested in what would be a fair return for two months of Carlos Beltran.

Here’s what we know: Carlos Beltran is hitting .289/.389/.514 this season, with 15 home runs, 30 doubles, 65 RBI, and average-to-good defense in right field. Fangraphs values his performance through the first four months of this season at $17.5 million dollars. If Beltran continues to play at this level for the remainder of the year, his performance in August and September would be worth about $8.8 million dollars by Fangraphs’ count.

$8.8 million dollars, but Beltran will make about $6.2 million dollars in that time, meaning that he’s worth about $2.6 million dollars in excess. So if the Mets traded Beltran to “Team A” straight up, getting back $2.6 million dollars of stuff would be a fair deal for both sides. This leaves the question: What does $2.6 dollars in prospects look like?

Thankfully, interweb baseball-person Victor Wang has put a dollar value on different types of prospects already. $2.6 million of value would get the Mets a young C grade pitcher and an older C grade hitter, something like that. Definitely not a top 100 prospect though. Basically Lucas Duda and an decent A-ball pitcher would be fair return for Beltran if the other team didn’t have any pressure on them and they picked up all his salary. This is the bare minimum scenario, and it probably won’t happen.

It probably won’t happen because there are some teams in tight races willing to overpay, and it’s unlikely that anyone wants to pick up all of Carlos Beltran’s salary. I certainly don’t. So let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: If the Mets pay all of Beltran’s salary and the team trading for him is willing to pay a premium to make the postseason. If the Mets pay all of Beltran’s salary, that’s $8.8 million dollars of value — and we’ll inflate it 20% because of teams being willing to overpay to make the postseason. I’m guessing a bit here, but that’s $10.5 million dollars of value for Beltran.

By that same prospect value chart, $10.5 million dollars equals a couple of good-but-not-quite-can’t-miss pitching prospects. Something like Jeurys Familia and Armando Rodriguez, to name two pitchers in the Mets’ system right now. Certainly not Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown, Atlanta’s Mike Minor, or any of the other big prospect names thrown around recently. A good pitching prospect and another decent arm/young hitter is the maximum scenario for a fair trade, if the other team wants to overpay to make the postseason and the Mets pick up all of Beltran’s salary. But, again, it’s not going to be a top, top guy.

Here: Just to feed the speculation machine, if the Mets sent Beltran and the money to pay his salary to the Braves, Arodys Vizcaino, a 20-year-old pitcher in Double-A who was ranked the #93 best prospect by Baseball America this year, and Christian Bethancourt, a 19-year-old catcher with a .713 OPS between A and High-A, would be vaguely realistic return. If the Braves were willing to overpay. And the Mets paid all Beltran’s salary.

Which probably won’t happen.

So it seems unlikely — because Beltran makes a lot of money and can’t recoup his team draft picks if he leaves as a free agent after the season — that the Mets will get any Grade A prospects. If Domonic Brown for Carlos Beltran actually happens, I’ll print out and eat this blog post, and then present photograph evidence of such. But it’s entirely possible the Mets will get a couple of B Grade prospects, particularly if teams start to outbid each other — if Beltran goes to the Giants, that means the Braves might end up facing him in the NLDS, and vice-versa. So teams might be willing to pay more to ensure they don’t end up on the short side, facing the player with the best postseason OPS in history with their season on the line. The market forces might drive his price up, especially in this economic, political, and temperate climate.

If you want to feed the speculation machine during your company’s work hours your free time, go through John Sickels’ prospect lists looking for combinations that add up to about $10 million dollars on this chart. Baseball America’s preseason list is here.

Now all that said, Sandy Alderson is the Mets’ GM, and he is not a man I’d want to play chicken with. He is not a conjuror of cheap tricks. Who knows what sort of deadline wizardry he’ll be able to pull off. If the Mets trade Beltran for a Grade B pitcher and a C grade pitcher, it’ll be a good deal. If they get anything more, it’ll be a steal. With the new front office, I’m more than willing to bet on a steal.

7 Comments

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

7 responses to “Carlos Beltran: What Would a Fair Return Look Like?

  1. This is something of a test for Alderson & Co. It’s the first time we, the Met faithful, get to see how this front office wheels and deals as sellers of a pretty decent commodity in a market with some interested buyers and a deadline looming. There were occasions in past years where we were in the buyers line at this point, and I’m having a hard time thinking of an instance where that worked out well for us… I keep thinking of Mike Bordick instead.

    Just for fun, what do you think Minaya & Co. would have done in this spot? Maybe hold on to Beltran and pick up Jason Werth for 3 top prospects?

  2. “He is not a conjuror of cheap tricks.”

    Gandalf references are always awesome.

    I think the Mets will do better in a trade than what you propose. Every marginal win at this point is FAR more valuable than it would be in, say, January. It wouldn’t surprise me if they land someone like Minor/Delgado from the Braves.

    • Patrick Flood

      I don’t know, that sounds steep to me. Injury concerns, no draft picks recouped, and he’s making a lot of money.

      I should have done this before, but here’s what the A’s got for Matt Holliday, who is a little bit similar. Less injury worry, not as good of a season, but he could be offered arb. What Sickels and Baseball America gave them before the season:

      Shane Petersen – 21 year old Grade C hitter – $0.7 million
      Clayton Mortensen – 24 year old Grade C pitcher – $1.5 million
      Brett Wallace – 22 year old Grade A hitter, BA #40 prospect going into the year – $23.4 million dollars.

      Wow, okay. Wallace really brings up the value. But that’s $25.6 million going to the A’s.

      Holliday was traded in July, so let’s say two months as a 6 win player. So two wins, which even if we say is worth $12 million plus the picks he could bring back at about $6 million . . . that’s $18 million for $26 million. Yeah, maybe Beltran brings back more. But Holliday was younger, healthier, ect. Not a perfect comp, but it’s a comp. I could see the Mets getting more if Alderson plays it right.

      • Also, these “grades” are just estimates. We don’t know how each of these teams rates these prospects internally. Andy Marte was a top Braves prospect, but based on their movements, they certainly didn’t think so (and they were right).

        When the Mets traded Lastings Milledge for Church/Schneider, I went ape. “How could they trade him for a fourth OFer and a no hit catcher?” Well, they obviously evaluated him differently than everyone else (and they were right).

        Gary Brown might be a high level prospect according to BA/Sickels/Etc, but if the Giants are willing to trade him for a rental when they have an aging CFer (Andres Torres is 34 in January) and no other quality outfielders to speak of, I think you really have to think twice about just how good the kid really is.

      • Patrick Flood

        Yeah, but: Brian Sabean.

  3. Apparently the Braves are ridiculously crazy about Adroys Vizciano, and BA did just rank him as the #16 prospect on their midseason list (Mike Minor graduated I suppose since he didn’t appear). I would gladly prefer Minor, but the Braves are one of the few organizations that can really afford to overvalue a higher risk, higher reward guy like Vizciano because they have so much depth in high upside arms to go along with a formidable current rotation. I actually think they might be more inclined to part with Minor than Vizciano, though I’d put the odds on either of ‘em as less than 15%, and only that high in part because of the Brian McCann injury.

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