So as the Carlos Beltran Trade Saga reaches its conclusion over the next few days, we’re getting treated to two sets of rumors on parallel tracks.
Set One: Team X is in the lead for Beltran, followed closely by Team Y and Team Z. That is quickly followed by a rumor saying Team Y is in the lead, and don’t rule out Teams A and B.
Set Two: The Mets won’t get Player X for Beltran, are crazy for asking for Player Y, and Player Z doesn’t even exist.
Does anyone remember so many rumors this time of year about what a team won’t trade? I feel like we are an hour or so away from:
“Heard this: the Mets asked for a bag of balls for Carlos Beltran, but a baseball executive remarked: ‘The Mets can’t seriously expect those balls to be official size and weight! Beltran can’t be offered arbitration!’”
Color me extremely skeptical of both the people certain about what the Mets can get for Beltran, and those certain of what they can’t. At the risk of sounding anti-stats, I think analysis about exactly what dollar value the final prospects will be in the Beltran deal is worth about as much as… well, the team that will ultimately deal for Beltran is currently claiming Beltran himself is worth. Of the teams involved in the Beltran sweepstakes, the team likeliest to take such an approach with dealing for Beltran is… the team trading Beltran away. It’s not how the Phillies and Giants operate, to be sure.
As for the reports about who isn’t getting traded for Beltran: these reports are coming mostly from teams who have a vested interest in driving the final price of Beltran down. Second: if the interest in Beltran were really so low, you simply wouldn’t have all of these teams jockeying for position by publicly declaring so many prospects off-limits. There are plenty of players the Mets could trade and receive little-to-nothing in return. So why haven’t there been 37 reports today that the Mets cannot receive Domonic Brown, or Mike Minor, or Gary Brown for Justin Turner? Right, because no one is trying to trade for him.
To be clear: this is not to say that the Mets will ultimately get Domonic Brown, or any one prospect. But when the near-final offers come in, and one of the involved teams raises, the Phillies (or anyone else) will have a choice: do they adhere strictly to the exact dollar amount their prospects are tallied to be worth, or do they raise as well so they acquire Beltran? What will it be worth to keep him away from other NL teams that they will face in the playoffs, for instance? Do the Phillies see a greater distance between Beltran and his in-house alternative? Do the Giants? We don’t know how each team will calculate all of these things.
They may raise. They may not.
Here’s what I do know. Beltran is going to make a massive improvement in the lineup of whichever team acquires him. Sandy Alderson has been through this many times, and has managed to create a situation where around a half-dozen teams are bidding against each other for his singular player. And whatever the Mets get on or about July 30 for Beltran is going to be the maximum amount they could have extracted from the situation.
You want to tell me who that is? Or more tiresome, who that isn’t? Sorry, I’m not buying if your source is a team with a vested interest in the Beltran deal, speculation from an MLB observer (as if trades have never been made that someone in MLB judged to be uneven!) or a database of the exact dollar worth of every prospect in baseball. Such analysis is extremely useful for evaluative purposes. And pretty useless for predictive purposes.