November 09, 2013

Will #Cardinals make a $14.1M gamble?

Update, Nov. 4: The Cards have made the qualifying offer, smartly. 

Update, Nov. 9: Beltran has reaffirmed he wants 3-4 years, so he won't be staying in St. Louis, if somebody else does pony up. (And, he won't get 4; he'll be lucky to get 3 guaranteed instead of 2+option.)

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing in the NLCS when I wrote this.

That said, their Mr. October, Carlos Beltran (overlooking seven years ago when Adam Wainwright caught Mr. October of the Mets looking at a 12-6 curveball) is a free agent.

And, the numbers are out this year on what the "tender" offers are for teams to make to free agents and get a compensatory draft pick if said free agent goes somewhere else.

And, that number is $14.1 million for this year.

The gamble is that of general manager John Mozeliak.

Cards fans all know how the Albert Pujols compensatory pick became Michael Wacha

That said, everybody knew that Pujols wasn't taking the Cards' offer.

And, that's not so sure with Beltran.

That said, I don't doubt he'll get a multi-year offer, at least a 2/$26 plus a player option year for, say, $12M more. He might even get a straight 3/$40.

I'm basing my guess on the goodies the Giants ladled out to Hunter Pence. And the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury is the only other outfield free agent of note. Sit down, Marlon Byrd and your career year.

If Pence is worth $16.5M next year and $18M years after that, Beltran's worth $13.5M or so on a shorter contract.

I'll give the younger Pence a slight bump over Beltran offensively, and call it a draw defensively.

Will there be interest? Sure.

He might want to go back to the Mets, and retire there. That said, their post-Madoff financial restraints might not let that happen. 

He might want to go back to Kansas City. (I'm sure the Royals, in turn, would only do 2+option and not a straight 3 on years.)

Would Cleveland, having gotten back in the playoffs, pay to upgrade over Drew Stubbs? The Cubs could move him to left, maybe saving his knees a bit more.

Heck, maybe the Pirates would chase him instead of Byrd, though I find that doubtful.

The Rangers might will let Nelson Cruz walk, though. Or David Murphy, and like the Cubs, move Beltran to left.

Would the Reds find him a cheaper option that resigning Shin-Soo Choo, and then move Jay Bruce to center? Or even gamble on Beltran there?

Even the Phillies might be interested.

And, of course, all the AL teams can give Beltran a bit of "time off" at DH.

So, I see the interest from other clubs there.

(And, I should have gone with my gut when first blogging this post. The Yankees are allegedly looking at including Beltran in a big spending spree. And, if they are OK with Granderson coming back for one year at the tender-offer level, they're going to give Beltran at least 3/$40.)

Now, what if it's all 2+option offers, and, at say, $2/25 + $11, instead of what I project? Would Beltran take the Cards' 1 year and stay?

He might. And, that's not horrible. Jon Jay still seems a bit flighty at times (and that's probably the most polite thing we can say about his fielding in Game 3 of the LCS), Matt Holliday isn't getting younger or healthier either, and so, if nothing else, Allen Craig can unlimber that OF glove a few more games a year to make sure Matt Adams is at least semi-regular at first base. (Because of the depth of his ankle problems, I am not expecting Oscar Tavares to be on the 2014 opening day roster in St. Louis.)

So, if Beltran took the deal, it might clog up the outfield a bit, but not that much.

And, it wouldn't clog up the Cardinals' wallet, either.

And another and, Mozeliak appears to have the same idea.

As I said, it's a poor free agent market. Plus, with his agent giving semi-official word, we know that Chris Carpenter's money is entirely gone due to his retirement, and that Jake Westbrook ain't coming back. (Nor, in all likelihood, is Edward Mujica.) So, you have a $1 million raise for Beltran, less $25 million being dropped. That's enough for a modest arbitration raise for David Freese, lesser raises for the pitching young guns, and hitting the free agent market to upgrade on Pete Kozma at short, if you don't trade Freese for that reason, if you can't get Rafael Furcal to resign on the cheap as a "bridge."

There's not a lot of downside, and, the Cards could use that extra draft choice.

ESPN noted that five players from the 2009 draft are on the big squad. That's great, but it means that great farm system could use some restocking help.


Anonymous said...

I think if the Cards make the offer then nobody is going to sign him. $13-$15M for 1 season is about his value. A 1st rounder on top of that makes it out of the question.

Gadfly said...

The pick's a second-rounder if it's from one of the bottom 10 teams, I neglected to add, as far as details. So, the Mets wouldn't have to give up a first-rounder. Neither would the Astros, if they finally decided to put a crowbar in their wallets. The Yankees?

The Rangers probably would pay the first-round price. The Phillies might. If you're doing 2+option, especially, that's a draft choice that you prorate over 3 years.

I expect he'll draw interest.