Valuing Beltran

In 2004, Carlos Beltran had a coming out party, of sorts, on the grandest of stages with the Houston Astros. He joined the Drayton Gang earlier in the season as part of a three-team trade, and while he was always highly valued, mashing eight post-season home runs and setting the record for most consecutive playoff games with a home run cemented his superstardom. Following the season, agent Scott Boras and he signed a 7-yr/119 mil deal with the New York Mets, an average annual value of 17 million dollars.

In 2,609 PAs with the Mets from 2005-08, Beltran is hitting .275/.362/.505 with an average of 36 doubles, 29 home runs, and 21 stolen bases. He also plays fantastic defense and is a menace on the basepaths. Bill James and Marcel disagree on his 2009 projection, with James being more optimistic in the form of more plate appearances and a higher wOBA. The godfather of sabermetrics sees Beltran posting a .383 wOBA in 680 PAs, while Marcel is calling for a .368 wOBA in 617 PAs. Weighting the two projections, Beltran’s true talent level is around a .376 wOBA in 649 PAs.

Over the last three seasons, Beltran has posted + – defensive marks of +11, +24, and +24. Weighted, with another year of aging taken into account, we can be comfortable calling him a +20 fielder for 2009, which amounts to +16 runs, and +2.5 more need to be added as a positional adjustment since he is a centerfielder. Before his offense even comes into play, Beltran is worth +18.5 runs compared to an average player.

To determine his offensive contribution, subtract the league average wOBA from his projected mark, divide by 1.15, and multiply that quotient by the number of plate appearances. ((.376-.332)/1.15)*649= 24.8. Therefore, Beltran is worth +24.8, or +25, runs compared to an average player, or about two and a half wins. Add this to the +18.5 from other facets of his play and Beltran, for 2009, is a +43.5 runs above average player. Converted to wins, he is worth 4.35 wins above what an average player would contribute. Then we must add another two wins to establish his mark above replacement level, making him +6.35 wins.

Next, we want to see if he is worth the AAV of 17 mil, so multiply the 6.35 wins by the 5 mil rate of dollars per win. The product is 31 million dollars, meaning that if Carlos were a free agent right now, and signed a 1-yr deal, a fee of 31 mil would be appropriate. Factor in a 10% discount rate for security with a team, and that he has three years remaining on his deal with the Mets, a 3-yr deal at this juncture would be worth 84 mil, an AAV of 28 mil.

A 17-mil/season deal would pay Beltran to be worth 3.4 wins. As we have just seen, right now, he is worth about three full wins more. The Mets are paying him handsomely, but his market value at this moment much greater in terms of salary. Now, Rob Neyer linked here this morning discussing the idea that certain teams can afford to, or should pay more for certain players, based on the payroll and potential success of the team. As in, the Mets increasing their wins total from 92-95 should be worth more money than Meche increasing the Royals from 70-73 wins.

This makes Beltran’s case even more interesting, because the Mets are currently paying him for much less than he is worth on the market today, and the Mets are a team with a payroll, fanbase, and potential success large enough to pay, with merit, more than the 5 mil/win rate. Essentially, they are paying a 6.5 win player money for a 3.5 win player in the context of their team, which could/should pay closer to 6.5-7 mil per win. His offensive numbers may not be as impressive as a few years ago, but he is a dynamite baserunner and arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game, which adds immense value normally not taken into account.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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“Therefore, Beltran is worth +21.5 runs compared to a replacement player, or a little over two wins.”

Shouldn’t it be +21.5 compared to an average player and +40-ish compared to replacement level, making Beltran a 6.5 win player?

Also, you inadvertently used AB instead of PA.