Indians

Tribe Free Agent News: Back in the Beltran Running?

It was a short eight days ago, that I had an epiphany: the Indians should be waiting out the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. At age 35 coming off his best year in a while, there could be a concern giving him big money and a long term commitment. With Josh Willingham taken off the board by the Minnesota Twins, my rationale then as to why the Tribe and Beltran could work:

if the years and the money aren’t there, could Beltran be looking at a Kevin Millwood/Juan Gonzalez type one year deal? Could the Indians make a one-year, $10 million commitment to the switch-hitting stud and plug him right into the middle of the order and let him set his market again for next year?

To me, it’s a no-lose situation for both sides if Beltran can’t get what he wants long term right now. Make yourself play for the contract, perform at a high level and you can hit the open market again next winter. If the Indians contend, you keep him. If they fall out of it and Beltran is playing well, there will for sure be a taker for him at the deadline, the same way there was last summer when the Mets sent him out west.

For the most part, I thought it was a good theory, but a pipe dream. We’ve heard from the front office that the team will be adding $20 million in payroll just in arbitration raises to the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, and others. They already added $10 million more between the one-year deals with Derek Lowe and Grady Sizemore. With any other major free agent acquisition, the Tribe would have to be creative and possibly move a player or two.

Late last night, ESPN’s Buster Olney and Fox’s Ken Rosenthal both tweeted that the Indians are “heavily in” on Beltran, with the likes of Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Rays. According to Rosenthal, who did a great job with this piece, the Tribe is not scared of the asking price, which is said to be around $12 million per on a three-year deal.

Yet, outside of DH Travis Hafner, who will earn $13 million next season, the Indians’ commitments are relatively low – $34.2 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, plus between $20 million and $25 million in likely arbitration salaries. Beltran, then, could fit with a back-loaded contract.

That is a very good point brought by Rosenthal. After 2012, the Indians have Hafner, Sizemore, Fausto Carmona (if they please – team option for ’13), and Lowe all off the books. That is $31 million they will be shedding. That is why the talk of a Beltran deal would be back-loaded. Sure, they would take a hit this year, but in 2013 and 2014, there is a financial flexibility.

There are two things that cannot be overstated here:

1. The AL Central is still the easiest division to win. Yes, the Tigers will be the team to beat, but the Indians managed to hang around with a completely banged up lineup until the end of August. The Royals are young and improving, but their rotation is still a serious question mark. The Twins and the White Sox are both moving in the wrong direction.

2. The Indians window with the players they have currently is the next two years. They made the bold move to send their best two pitching prospects out to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez, who is under their control through 2013. The core of this team – Carlos Santana, Choo, Cabrera, Justin Masterson, Jimenez, and Chris Perez – are all entering or in their primes. You have top prospect Jason Kipnis ready to be a star. Add in the improving Michael Brantley, a deep bullpen, a solid one through five in the rotation, and you realize that the time for the Indians to make their move is now.

That is why adding Beltran would be so big for this team. Moving Beltran between left field and DH, but playing every day, would give the Indians a switch-hitting stud they could plug in between Choo and Santana in the lineup, and a a serious shift in the depth perception of this club. You can’t count on Sizemore and Hafner to stay healthy and having Beltran would give those two a ton of opportunities to rest. And Grady and Pronk could give Beltran a day or two off as well.

This would also lesson the pressure on Shelley Duncan, who if the season started today, would be the starting first baseman and the best right-handed bat option for the Tribe. Duncan is at his best when he isn’t exposed by playing too much. He excels as a right-handed pinch hitter and a starter against tough lefties.

Do I think this will actually happen? No, I don’t. I think the Indians are definitely serious about getting Beltran, but the Cardinals are now a desparate team in search of a big bat after losing Albert Pujols. The Blue Jays seem to be itching to make a big move and have money to spend. I just think the bidding will end up getting too high and the Tribe will have to bow out.

But I hope I am wrong. Take a look at what the Tribe’s everyday lineup would look like with Beltran:

1B Michael Brantley

SS Asdrubal Cabrera

RF Shin-Soo Choo

LF Carlos Beltran

C Carlos Santana

DH Travis Hafner

CF Grady Sizemore

2B Jason Kipnis

3B Jack Hannahan/Lonnie Chisenhall

Who wouldn’t like that????

  • AMC

    Would love the Indians to make this kind of move, but there is no way this is happening. The Indians were hot after Beltran at the trade deadline and he nixed it because he didn’t want to come to Cleveland. If he didn’t want to go to Cleveland in a trade, why would he come to Cleveland as a free agent? This reeks of Scott Boras trying to drive up his price in other places where Beltran actually wants to play. The only way Beltran ends up in Cleveland is if somehow his market completely bottoms out and other teams interested drop out of it due to health concerns.

  • mgbode

    the Gralos Beltmore dream lives on!

    (also, important to note that while you cannot rely on Grady and Hafner staying healthy all year, you also cnanot rely on Beltran styaing healthy all year)

    but, imagine the magical couple of weeks when we have a hitting OF of Beltran, Sizemore, and Choo at their peak levels (again, I said a couple of weeks here)

  • stin4u

    Not going to happen.

  • -bobby-

    That would make this team a legitimate contender. He brings the big bat everyone is craving along with depth and flexibility to the line-up. This would be the type of move everyone has been begging for here. With that line-up and our starting 5 (if they live to potential) we could be a dangerous team.

  • kevin

    ^ Agreed.

  • yerfdog

    Tribe will be a dangerous team either way. Beltran would be icing on an already pretty good tasting cake.

  • Josh

    No way we play Brantley at first in this scenerio. Make him the fourth outfielder, which really means he plays almost everyday with the Sizemore/Beltran/Hafner injuries sure to happen.

  • Nobody

    Wait, Brantley can play first base? Why hasn’t he been playing there?

  • Bradley L. Cromes

    Has Brantley ever been floated before as a 1B option? I like this lineup as it’s composed, but I’m not sure Brantley is a fit there. Barring that, is there any 1B option you’d consider? I’m looking at Jorge Cantu (cheap, underrated veteran), Brad Hawpe (who the Indians were rumored to be after a few years ago), or Derek Lee (best possible option) in that spot.

  • mgbode

    @8 – IPI recently noted that Brantley played some 1B in the minors and that he will be giving it a try in spring training as well. He likely hasn’t been playing there because our OFers have not exactly been stellar and the FO wanted to give LaPorta a chance to live up to his minor league numbers.

    I think Brantley can be both the 4th OF and 1B. Days when he goes into the OF, we can have Santana play 1B. When (not if) Grady and/or Beltran get hurt, he can move to OF more fulltime, and we can enact the Hannahan or Duncan plan at 1B.

  • Josh

    Playing Brantley at first, on even a semi-regular basis, makes no sense. It maximizes his weaknesses (power, and hitting in general at this point) and minimizes his strengths (LF defense).

    If we aren’t going to add a first baseman I’d much rather go another year with Laporta, who at least has the potential to be a power right handed first baseman, or even Duncan, than Brantley. When they reported he was playing some first base in winter ball, they said it was in case they needed him in a pinch. If they need to use him there three times a year in a pinch, fine. If they use him there three times a week in a pinch, that is unacceptable.

  • mgbode

    @Josh – it just depends on if our FO has given up on LaPorta. if they have and think Brantley will provide more, then it can make sense. we will have more power from our OF than we have had (plus Carlos at C), so we can make up for Brantley not having it at 1B.

    is it a great long-term plan? no. but, we are talking about the next year (possibly two) of putting out our best lineup to compete. Brantley may be that answer (unless LaPorta starts hitting the cover off the ball like Alex Gordon finally started to do for the Royals)

  • Hamsterdam

    There is no way in hell the Indians sign Carlos Beltran.

  • Harv 21

    @1/AMC: “This reeks of Scott Boras trying to drive up his price in other places where Beltran actually wants to play.”

    I had the same take. Don’t believe Dolans would finally crawl out from under Hafner’s contract just to drop $30M on a 35 year old. If they were interested in that kind of deal they would have probably chased the younger Cuddyer as he’s still in his prime.

  • NJ

    1.) Beltran at $12M over three years?!?!! I have not seen anything anywhere near that low. Everything I’ve read puts him near double digits per year. Danny Knobler of CBS sports tweeted that he had at least one $10mil a year offer.

    For the life of me, I do not get why the lack of interest in Beltran from these teams. Willingham gets $7M a year? Beltran was twice the player he was last year! And he can only get 2/20M? Probably injury concerns and all, but wow.

    I hope Antonetti can get this done.

    2.) From everything I’ve read, the Brantley @ first thing is more an attempt to create more lineup flexability rather than a legit answer to 1B. I see it as a good thing- the FO sees we might have a glut of OFs so lets find a way to get a young player some more PT.

  • NJ

    Sorry. Just realized I misread. $12M per sounds about right.

    @14- I agree with the dangers of signing a 35-year old vet, but Beltran is a very different type of player than Hanfer. He can play multiple positions, CF being one of them. He’s got a variety of tools. Minus the injury year, his numbers have progressed as you’d expect. And heck, he played nearly 150 games last year with a 300/385/525 slash line.

    But yeah, it’s a risk.

    Part of me thinks that the Indians FO shows “interest” in guys just to tell the fans, “look, we’re trying to get something done. oh, by the way, meet your new 1B – Felix Pie.”

  • willson

    like everyone else, i highly doubt the chances of this are anything over 5 percent. but man it sure does have the feel of “the missing piece” thinking about it.

  • NJ

    Cuddyer is 33. Beltran is 35.

    Cuddyer WAR
    2006- 2.1
    2007- 1.9
    2008- 0.5
    2009- 1.2
    2010- 1.0
    2011- 3.0

    Beltran WAR
    2006- 8.0
    2007- 5.3
    2008- 6.8
    2009- 4.2
    2010- 1.9
    2011- 4.4

    Even in a year where he was injured and only played 64 games (2010), Beltran posted a higher WAR. If Beltran can still play CF (granted, a big ‘if’), he is immensely more valuable than Willingham and Co. If he can’t, but still produces like he did last year, he is still more valuable.

  • Josh

    @mgbode, I’d be fine with that logic if Brantley were a better hitter than Laporta (Laporta had slightly better OPS and OPS+ last year). He’s not. And he certainly has less power.

    Then when you look at minor league track records, Laporta has FAR more potential to become a legit power bat at first than Brantley does.

    So Laporta has a slightly better major league history, a MUCH better minor league history, hits right handed and has actually played the position before (not well by any means, but at least has experience at it). I just don’t understand how in the world they could think it makes more sense to move Brantley to first than to give Laporta another shot?

  • mgbode

    @Josh – have those two compete for the slot? brantley also had better numbers pre-injury

    anyways, as others have mentioned, it’s a longshot because it would require us getting Carlos Beltran, which is likely not happening. and, if it did, i don’t mind sorting out the details later 🙂

  • Harv 21

    FWIW, Beltran is now 34, Cuddyer 32, but do think those couple of years make a difference when players approach mid-30s, especially if you might ask them to play some OF. Also, I think Cuddyer has played some corner outfield experience as well.

    Anyway, think he really doesn’t want to be here, tribe really doesn’t want to pay that, so it’s a match made in hell.

  • Jaker

    That would be awesome, but doesn’t he NOT want to play here? He nixed a deal this summer that would bring him here, so unless we overspend A LOT (which is something the Tribe doesn’t ever do!) he’s Boston bound or Toronto, teams that will pay 15 per. I love the idea, but it aint gunna happen.

    Why don’t we instead spend money on our own guys like Masterson and Santana? Why is no one talking about this? It seems as though after this “two year window” every player on the roster is gunna leave and we’re going back to 60 win seasons. Remember when Shapiro locked up Peralta, Hafner, Sizemore and Carmona all at young ages? Why arent we doing that again? Am I missing something?

  • NJ

    @21 – It is a typical Indians FA rumor. Step one: they’re interested in this great player, step two: I get really excited, step three: great player goes else where, step four: I feel like a dupe for getting my hopes up.

    @22- We have most of the core through 2014. Minus the old guard and the big exceptions – Acab and Choo. Choo has shown no desire to remain here after that. My take on Acab: the front office is curious if his ’11 power spike was just a fluke. Bad business buying high.

    You kind of answered your own question though. I think the FO is hesitant because we got burned so bad on Hafner/Sizemore/Westbrook. And Peralta never became the play most hoped for. I think their new business model may be more along the TB front with next to no long term commitments and a constant youth movement.

    Related: In a PD column, somebody asked Hoynes if the lack of contract obligations was a sign that the Dolans’ may be looking to sell in the near future. Hoynes said that he hadn’t heard anything and kind of left it at that. What he didn’t do is dismiss the idea as outlandish.

  • TSR3000

    Not.A.Chance.

    Once again, a Cleveland team is used as leverage in negotiations.

  • friscohio

    From what I saw when he was on the Giants last year, he is like having an extra hitting coach on the bench. He helped Pablo Sandoval really dial it in.

  • ClevelandFan14

    I think the Rosenthal article sold me on this. I would love to see it happen, but I don’t think it will. It worries me since it is risky, but since this is our window I guess we have to take risks.

  • NJ

    @1 – Boras no longer represents Beltran.

  • 216in614

    This would make my year.

  • Definitely a pipe dream

  • ClevelandFan14

    Well it was fun to dream about for a day.

  • NJ

    Don’t worry. We’ve got Swisher from the Yanks rumors on deck.

  • pepe

    I don’t believe the Tribe serious about spending any money on a Free Agent. They just want to be mentioned in rumors so they can trick the fan base into thinking they are actually trying.

  • ObieMassillon

    I just hope the hitting coaches work with Santana on not swinging for the fences all the time. We really seem to overrate Santana. I haven’t looked but iw old live to know how many of his homers were solo shots lat year. It seemed every time he hit one, there was nobody on base. They have been trying to coach that hitch in his swing out of him but he seems to ignore the instruction. He has this overconfidence thing going on that he needs to check. I agree he has all the talent to be the anchor of a major league lineup but he has a lot of maturing to do. I know this post isn’t about this topic necessarily. I just keep reading how everyone is counting on his bat in the lineup like it is automatic numbers. The guy didn’t even hit .250 lat year.

  • NJ

    @32- Well, if you believe unnamed sources, Hoynes reports today our offer was “very close” to the Cards 2/26M. Which means that it still was most likely less.

    I think the Indians were honestly in their attempt to get Beltran. I mean, this is the second time we’ve tried to acquire him so the front office obviously likes him. Who would take the same money to play in Cleveland over St.Louis?

    @33- My gut instinct was to defend Santana, but now that I think on it I actually agree with most of what you said. His situational hitting left something to be desired and his head didn’t always seem to be in the game. But don’t be too tough on the guy. He walks a lot and hits a lot of homers too. I wonder how much more effective he’d be with somebody solid batting after him.

  • Ghost

    FWIW Paul Hoynes is reporting that the Indians made an “aggressive” for Beltran close to the deal he got from St Louis. Im thinking 25 over 2 years. Cant accuse the Dolans of being cheap on this one.