The Myth Of Carlos Beltran's Poor Contract Lives On

Level-headed Twins fan and blogger Aaron Gleeman, of AaronGleeman.com and Hardballtalk, wrote the following in an otherwise spot-on analysis of the Joe Mauer mega-deal:

For every Albert Pujols or Manny Ramirez deal that proved favorable for the team there are several massive deals that proved unfavorable to varying degrees: Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Ken Griffey Jr., Kevin Brown, Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Carlos Beltran.

The inclusion of Beltran alongside the likes of Zito and Griffey Jr. is more than a bit puzzling. Gleeman notes that the unfavorable contracts fall into one of three categories:

  • "Some of those were full-blown busts" -- It's nearly impossible to argue this about Beltran.
  • "some were a mixed bag where ultimately the player was paid significantly more than he was worth" -- Again, it's tough to argue this, as we'll see in a moment.
  • "some simply saw the team overpay for a good player, as the "bad" pretty clearly outnumber the "good" even though in nearly every case the team and its fans were thrilled at the time of the signing" -- It is true that Met fans were thrilled at the time of the signing. This possibility seems the most plausible for describing the Beltran deal but still misses the mark. The only time he was ever really "bad" was 2005, and even then was still just slightly below league average, all-around.

Gleeman concludes that portion of the writeup with this:

In other words, if given a chance to go back in time more often than not teams would opt against handing out a $100 million deal.

Hopefully the Mets front office doesn't regret giving Beltran a 7 year, $119 million contract ($17 million AAV), even if there is an uninformed portion of the fanbase that does. Yes, the man was injured for half of 2009 and 2010-2011 remain question marks. However, a look at the dollars-per-win model of player valuation shows that Beltran has been worth more than he's been paid thus far, and seems like a good bet to provide $119 million worth of value to the team.

Here are the $100+ million contracts listed -- from left to right the columns represent the player, WAR provided in contract years, dollars paid per win, contract length in years (for players with active contracts, like Beltran, total years into the contract is listed), player salary during those years, and, if applicable, Fangraphs valuation of player value in dollars. The last two columns are the most important:

Player WAR $$ Per Win Years Salary FG Valuation
Pujols 48.7 $1.8M 6 $86M $190.3M
Ramirez 39.1 $4.1M 8 $160M N/A
Beltran 23.3 $3.6M 5 $85M $95.4M
Zito 5.3 $10.2M 3 $54M $23.3M
Hampton 8.4 $14.4M 8 $121M N/A
Wells 1.2 $30M 2 $36M $5.4M
Soriano 8.0 $6.4M 3 $51M $33.6M
Griffey Jr. 12.3 $9.4M 9 $116.5M N/A
Brown 25.6 $4.1M 7 $105M N/A
Helton 31.7 $3.5M 7 $110M $111.5M
Giambi 24.4 $4.9M 7 $120M $78.7M

Beltran has been worth more than he's been paid, thus far at least. Helton also has been more-or-less worth his contract.

Gleeman is obviously familiar with the Fangraphs dollars-per-win model, as he cites it in the same piece when assessing the Mauer contract. It's curious why he apparently chose to overlook it when lumping Beltran in with some of the great mistakes of the last ten years or so. It's possible he also factored team success when compiling the list (Ramirez won two World Series rings with the Red Sox, Beltran has none) but it's hard to objectively say that Beltran is a $100+ million flop. Should he miss 2010 and 2011, or perform at replacement level, it's possible the deal could be fairly labeled somewhat of a disappointment. It's just too early for that though, and there's no way he should be mentioned in the same sentence as Mike Hampton or Vernon Wells.

***UPDATE***

After receiving an onslaught of e-mails from Beltran fanboys, and re-considering Beltran's contract, Gleeman has removed Beltran's name from the original post. Good stuff.

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