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Carlos Beltran: Chasing the Money?



On Friday, I made a few predictions for the weekend, and all three of them came true. Firstly, White Noise was a pretty awful movie. It’s supposed to be a film about dead people re-connecting with their loved ones through radio stations, television static, cell phones, and anything else with a screen and a wire, but the only spooky thing calling from the grave here is Michael Keaton’s career. Secondly, the Royals did continue to remain dormant, but I think they’re going to have their 2005 starting left fielder under wraps by the end of the week. Whether that guy’s going to be a trade acquisition like Austin Kearns for the long-term picture or a stopgap guy like Danny Bautista remains to be seen, but Allard Baird wants the situation resolved soon.

Although the result of my third prediction isn’t official yet, it might as well be. Every credible sports website known to man is reporting that Carlos Beltran and the Mets have agreed in principle to a 7-year contract worth $119 million, breaking the hopes of Cubs, Astros, and Yankees fans, among others. The "others" would be fans of every other team in baseball, even if their team didn’t even place a phone call to Scott Boras regarding Carlos at the end of last season. Because Beltran spurned the Astros’ offer of $100 because he could get an extra $9 million from Mets owner Fred Wilpon, the fans and some members of the media have taken the liberty of bashing him for being all about the money and only about the money. To an extent, I can see where these people are coming from, if only because nobody really likes the power of New York baseball’s resources and because Beltran was so much fun to watch as a ‘stro last October.

Ultimately, this isn’t a question of whether Beltran’s worth is more than, less than, or equal to $100 million. I don’t think you’ll find many people who can successfully argue that the Mets overpaid to get him, because he’s a player who seemingly has an endless well of baseball skills he can use at will. What’s at stake here is the same debate baseball fans had four years ago when Alex Rodriguez entered into the largest contract in baseball history with the Texas Rangers. It’s a societal question of whether baseball players – especially the premier ones – are morally justified in maximizing their monetary value on the open market rather than taking less to stay in the place (often a small-market place) where fans fell in love with him.

As a big fan of the very small-market baseball team that drafted, developed, and reaped the rewards of Carlos Beltran, I understand the frustration of the many people who so desperately wanted him to shun the really big dollars and stay with the Astros. Doing so would’ve been a major feather in his cap, and a major black mark on the record of Boras, which I think we would all like to see someday. If we’re going to blame anybody for Beltran not taking less, we should be blaming Boras, who pretty noticeably played Astros GM Tim Purpura, using his team as bait for the New York clubs to get involved in the bidding war. As a result, nobody should be shocked that Beltran made this decision, because it was made the day he hired Boras to be his agent. Let’s be real here: Scott Boras clients don’t sign with teams that won’t get them the most recognition, the most money, and the most fame. It’s that word – "most" – that bothers baseball fans, because we can’t comprehend being offered hundreds of millions of dollars and turning it down just to get a few million more. The reality is that for every Jose Vidro and Mike Sweeney who sign for less than they could get on the open market, there are probably for or five guys who’re only interested in playing for who’ll write the biggest check, winning baseball games be damned.

The justification of such an action can be extremely difficult to pull off. When the Mets announce Carlos as their latest big-money acquisition, fans aren’t going to want to hear him say, "I came here because I want to win" when the informed know that Houston probably has a better chance of winning than the Mets do. Would it help ease the pain if Beltran admitted he chose New York because they offered more? Perhaps a little, but never entirely. I think what would help more would be all of us being more realistic, getting off our soapboxes, and putting the morality card down. Carlos served his six years of not being able to choose his destination, and according to the rules, he’s allowed to market his services however he pleases. Whether his decision was based on greed shouldn’t concern us in the least. He’s playing by the rules just like everybody else, and doesn’t deserve to be bashed for maximizing his value.

Other stuff ...

  • After bringing Odalis Perez back for a more-than-reasonable amount of money, the Dodgers are reportedly on the verge of adding Derek Lowe to an already pretty-good rotation. 4 years and $36 million is excessive for a pitcher of his talents, but I’ve given up on complaining about teams vastly overpaying free agents this winter. Therefore, the only real issue here is just how good Lowe’s likely to be pitching in Dodger Stadium. I think he has an opportunity to be very good and post some sub-3.50 ERA seasons as long as he has a solid infield defense playing behind him. Derek’s never struck out a lot of batters (career 5.88 K/9), but he’s one of the most extreme groundball pitchers I’ve ever seen, getting 3.34 grounders for every flyout in 1,090 innings.

    Replacing Alex Cora with Jeff Kent is quite the defensive downgrade, but Jose Valentin, the team’s likely third baseman, is a guy with good range. Cesar Izturis justifiably won a Gold Glove as a shortstop a season ago, and Hee Seop Choi’s soft hands and footwork are reminiscent of Todd Helton’s, one of the premier defenders at first base. Lowe’s going to need all of them to field like crazy to earn his $9 million a season, but his good control and ability to keep the ball in the park should make him a valuable option every fifth day.

  • As reported previously in this space, Dave Haller got his 30 seconds of fame on Saturday morning, as he was allowed to make a few comments on Baseball Prospectus Radio. Apparently, he didn’t freak out and stutter like I probably would’ve done given the same scenario, so mad props go out to that guy. If he wants to take baseball on as a career, he has the ability to be a big-time GM prospect in four or five years.
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