Mets' Making Beltran a $100 Million Man a Gross Overpayment
This was certainly not the first - or last - free agent that the Mets overpaid. Following the 2004 season, new general manager Omar Minaya needed to bring marquee names to the table. The team was coming off a fourth place finish, worthy of a record 20 games under .500. Out with the old (Art Howe and Jim Duquette) and in with the new. In less than two months time, Minaya was named Executive VP and GM and he then hired Willie Randolph as manager. The roster overhaul was next.
There were two players out there on the open market that Minaya wanted. First in the fold was Pedro Martinez, who received that extra special fourth year that all pitchers with their twenties in the rear view mirror look for. It also didn't hurt that Martinez was coming off a World Series championship with Boston and had 53 million reasons to come to Flushing.
The top position player out there was Carlos Beltran, who was looking to parlay 46 postseason at-bats into an epic long-term deal. After six-plus seasons wallowing in near non-existence with Kansas City, Beltran was dealt to Houston and batted .435 with eight home runs and 14 RBI in two playoff series. This is the same player that barely hit over .300 in two of his seven big league seasons and coming off a .267 campaign in his walk year.
To make matters more confusing was the presence of Mike Cameron, who was signed only a year earlier mainly for his defense, and he set a club mark with 30 long balls as a centerfielder. Beltran had no intentions of changing positions and his super agent, Scott Boras, would only entertain offers that had his client playing in his natural spot.
After negotiating with the Astros, Beltran 'settled' for the Mets offer of seven years and $119 million. "I'm very satisfied because we reached a deal," Beltran told reporters back then. "The Mets showed genuine interest all the way and were willing to commit the way I wanted them to."
But not before Boras made last minute calls to the Yankees, practically throwing Beltran at them for one less year and $19 million lower. Only after the Bombers said 'Thanks, but no thanks' did Beltran take Minaya's offer. In 2005, the only salaries higher than the $17 million average that Beltran received were perennial All-Stars Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million), Manny Ramirez ($20 million), Derek Jeter ($18.2 million), Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds ($18 million), and Jason Giambi ($17.1 million).
Superstar money for a non-superstar? While his numbers have been acceptable in some areas (home runs, RBI), his batting average has hovered in the .270's, much lower than you would expect from your so-called 'franchise player,' which a contract over $100 million should only be for.
Even in his own locker room, Beltran is behind others as the type of player you build your team around. He is far from being vocal or a leader, some intangibles that you would hope would come with all the extras such as the $11 million signing bonus and 15-person suite during every home game.
Even if you don't point to Beltran's impression of a mannequin in the last at-bat of the 2006 NLCS, how many times have fans (and media personnel) said to themselves that this guy only hits one out when the Mets are up by a ton? Although that may not be totally accurate, it must hold some water if the reminder repeats itself.
The talent is there and there have been flashes of brilliance. But for the most part, Beltran is the type of player that you can build WITH, not AROUND. He is by no means a free agent bust, or even a disappointment at this juncture. That is not the issue here. The issue is that at the time of his signing, Beltran was not needed on this team. His was not a position of need and the Mets could have stood pat with Cameron, a serviceable player that strikes out too much, but does bring a good stick and can flash the leather.
The money could have been spent elsewhere on more than one player. Beltran received a ton of money for the type of player that cannot carry a team on his back to the Promised Land. He is not dominating, as the aforementioned $100 million club members (with the exception of Giambi, and we all now know the answer for that) have either been or - in the case of Rodriguez and Ramirez - still are.
Once the Ink Dried...
Carlos vs. the Others, Post-Big Contract
Carlos Beltran (New York Mets)
2005 .266 16 78
2006 .275 41 116
2007 .276 33 112
Alex Rodriguez (Texas Rangers)
2001 .318 52 135
2002 .300 57 142
2003 .298 47 118
Manny Ramirez (Boston Red Sox)
2001 .306 41 125
2002 .349 33 107
2003 .325 37 104
Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
2001 .311 21 74
2002 .297 18 75
2003 .324 10 52
Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs)
2001 .328 64 160
2002 .288 49 108
2003 .279 40 103
Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants)
2002 .370 46 110
2003 .341 45 90
2004 .362 45 101
Jason Giambi (New York Yankees)
2002 .314 41 122
2003 .250 41 107
2004 .208 12 40