According to some reports, the Yankees made Beltran their top outfield target this winter. Although the 36 year old is far from his prime years, he offers an interesting skill set for the Bombers. His ability to switch hit is something the organization loves, and when Mark Teixeira was recently asked about Beltran, he said that his ability to switch-hit is reminiscent of the types of bats the Yankees had during their 2009 World Series run. Beltran has also continuously pursued the Yankees during his free agent years. In both 2005 and 2012, he contacted the Yankees to offer them a discount, but obviously nothing substantial occurred. The outfielder appears drawn to New York, and after spending six and a half years with the Mets, there’s no doubt that he can handle the New York market.
So he’s a switch-hitter, who may sign for a discount with the Yankees, and has experience with the New York media, but what do his stats look like? Over his career, Beltran has been nothing short of incredible, posting a career .283/.359/.496 slash and a 122 wRC+. Over his last two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran hasn’t been far off from his career numbers, batting .282/.343/.493 with 56 home runs.
Looking at the more advanced data, the numbers remain fairly consistent. His .314 BABIP for 2013 isn’t far off from his career .303 BABIP, and his 15.0 K% is slightly lower than his career 15.9%. There are some worries with his batted ball rates, as his slightly higher BABIP was driven by an increase in line drives, from a career 19.9% rate to 23.9%, as well as a decrease in ground ball rates. It’s hard to imagine that Beltran can sustain all these line drives, and that would mean a dip in his average, making his 2012 .269 batting average much more projectable than his 2013 .296. Another worrisome trend is his BB%, which declined to just 6.3% in 2013 after a career 10.4%.
In terms of splits, Beltran can still mash as a left-handed batter. He hit .315/.362/.509 against right-handed pitchers in 2013, but was just slightly above league average against left-handed pitcher while posting a 102 wRC+. Beltran struggled most against left-handers in his home ballpark, but this could be due to a combination of small-sample size and the impact of Busch Stadium. According to StatCorner, the park earned an 86 home run rating (with 100 being average) for right-handed hitters.
There’s little worry about moving Beltran to New York, as his history in Queens shows his potential. Moving him to the confines of Yankee Stadium should help him after years of productive hitting in Shea Stadium, Citi Field, AT&T Park, and Busch Stadium. As a left-handed batter, Beltran will obviously have an advantage with the short right field porch, but in comparison to the other home ballparks he’s played in, he should also see more help pulling the ball as a right-handed batter. As I mentioned with Choo yesterday, Beltran would fit in as a right fielder, and again the small dimensions in front of the short porch should help his fielding.
For what it’s worth, Beltran played under Kevin Long in Triple-A, and the hitting coach still stays in touch with the switch-hitter. So there are a ton of reasons why Beltran makes sense for both sides, but the biggest issue for the Yankees is age. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the outfielder is projected to receive a two year $30 million deal. It’s possible that the bidding reaches 3 years, and in that case he’d be signed through his age 39 season. Even though the contract is much shorter than what Choo would receive, regression is a big worry here.