Methinks Carlos Beltran really wants to get paid.
If he keeps up what he’s doing thus far in 2013, he probably will get his wish — and probably for multiple years, too. Now, considering that the St. Louis Cardinals do have top prospect Oscar Taveras waiting patiently in the wings to be unleashed upon the baseball world, you might say that Beltran’s status isn’t all that likely to affect them in the long run since they’ve already got future plans.
That, however, hasn’t stopped them from being the short-term benefactors of the 36-year old turning back the clock.
Okay, so maybe that’s overstating things a little bit given that the outfielder has been quite good over the last couple of years, but despite a 3.3 fWAR 2012 season with 32 home runs and nearly 100 RBIs for the Cardinals, it’s not as though there weren’t signs of his decline coming into 2013 — .269 BA, and career-high 9.3 swinging strike rate, anyone?
Neither age, health, nor his peripherals were on his side, but contract years have had a knack for bringing out some magical performances before, and few in MLB are as motivated as the former New York Mets star.
Including his three-hit performance on Sunday in a losing effort for St. Louis to close out the month of June, Beltran is positively on fire, posting a .330/.364/.610 triple slash over 107 PA in June, bringing his season OPS to .896, nearly where it was back in 2011.
Even though the slugger has always shown a penchant for power, the potential for his first 40-plus homer season since 2006 is still arguably the most surprising thing he’s done. Plus, unlike last season, he’s putting up a productive batting average at .308 and is seeing the ball rather well, hitting line drives at a career-best 23.9 percent rate (unless you count his short stint with the San Francisco Giants).
So, this is one of those players who are aging like fine wine, and might even be potentially on the way up as he heads towards what should be the twilight of his career … right?
Well, maybe there’s where teams might want to hold their horses.
Now, I think it goes without saying that Beltran is going to get nice multi-year deal as long as he can be a near-.900 OPS hitter, but whether he can continue being this guy next season is unsurprisingly in doubt.
The thing is, the peripherals that were against him … are still kind of against him. Consider, for example, the way that his walk rate has tumbled over the last three seasons: 11.9 percent in 2011, 10.5 in 2012, and a dismal 5.6 percent this year. Sure, he might have cut his strikeouts back a bit, but the drop in walks without a spike in swings to suggest a batting eye that isn’t what it used to be.
And speaking of discipline, there’s also the fact that he’s swung at outside pitches at an increasing rate, all the way to a career-high 31 percent this year.
That in itself isn’t a very strong indictment, but there are clear trends emerging here that suggest that he may be no sure thing. Of course, it’s not as though any team pursuing him will be expecting a five-tool player, but if those are diminished to just one very good power tool?
Maybe there is a good reason why the Cardinals are taking the cautious approach with their wallet on this one, that’s all.