Well, with the Royals having been all but mathematically eliminated from contention by Memorial Day–that’s what happens when you forget how to field, pitch, and hit, and aren’t fast enough to steal any bases–it looks like they’ll soon be disassembling the team. And the first to go out the door will be Carlos Beltran.
He shouldn’t be.Beltran is possibly the most underrated player in baseball. He’s a classic five-tool player, in that he makes spectacular catches, has a great throwing arm, can steal bases, hit home runs, and hit for average. For the past four years or so he’s been one of the most exciting players in baseball, but because he’s played in Kansas City, even a lot of Kansas Citians don’t know it.
Trouble is, Beltran is represented by Scott Boras, who is a leading candidate, along with George Steinbrenner, Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, to do the most to ruin the game of baseball. I think the nicest thing I’ve ever heard Boras called was "a one-man wrecking ball." Hey, none of those words will get you fined by the FCC…
Boras gets called lots of colorful things because Boras is a master at extracting every red cent out of you. Boras gets seven-figure salaries for pitchers who can’t pitch and position players who can’t hit or field routinely. And if you happen to be any good at all, Boras will get you an eight-figure salary.
How’d World Series MVP Ivan Rodriguez end up playing for the Detroit Tigers, a team that lost 119 games last year? Easy. They were the only team willing to pay the salary Boras demanded.
So, back to Beltran. Scott Boras’ job now, the way he sees it, is to present Beltran as the best player in baseball. Or at the very least, twice as good as anyone else available. And as we all know, if you’re twice as good as someone else who plays baseball, you should make at least four times as much money.
Scott Boras is going to try to get Beltran $25 million a year. And if he can’t get it, he’ll take the best offer on the table, which needless to say probably won’t be the $9 million the Royals are paying Beltran now.
So the Royals, desperate to get more than nothing for the best player they’ve developed since George Brett, are shopping Beltran. The only thing is, how many teams are willing to give you anything in exchange for a Scott Boras client, who’s going to walk at the end of the season?
The Yankees will, but the Yankees don’t have anything the Royals want or need. They’ve depleted all of it trading for less-talented players for their pennant drives the last few years. The Royals and Yankees discussed an even-up trade of Beltran for Alfonso Soriano during the offseason, but then the Yankees traded Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.
Seeing as nobody else is likely to have an Alfonso Soriano-caliber player at an Alfonso Soriano price to offer, the Royals’ best bet is to keep Beltran around and let him give them some highlight reel exposure. The Royals’ pitchers give him plenty of chances to chase down long fly balls.
The reason for this is simple: When a free agent the quality of Beltran departs, you don’t get nothing. You get a draft pick. In the case of Beltran, you’re virtually assured of getting the team’s first-round draft pick.
When you’re a small-market team, drafting is just about your only hope for being able to find and afford another player like Beltran.