Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m anywhere near the most knowledgeable dude on the planet when it comes to transactions, but I don’t get something that Buster Olney has been going on about for the past couple of days. Short version: his belief that Carlos Beltan’s contract clause that prevents teams from offering him arbitration after the season hurts his trade value.
On the one hand I totally understand that this forecloses teams from trading for him with the idea of offering him arb, letting him walk and getting draft pick compensation for their trouble. But wouldn’t such a gambit be outrageously risky here? Beltran is not in a situation where he can expect a raise in his annual salary once he signs as a free agent. Sure, he could get multiple years, but he’s not going to beat the $18.5 million he’s making right now on an annual basis.
Given what we’ve seen in the corner outfielder/DH market these past couple of years (i.e. low salaries or, in the case of Werth and Bay, high-dollar busts), isn’t it possible that Beltran would at least seriously consider accepting arbitration where, because of the nature of the beast, he’d make at least that $18.5 million and maybe a bit more?
And don’t tell me that Beltran is a Scott Boras client and he’d want to hit the market. The most famous arbitration burn of all time came when Greg Maddux — also a Boras client — unexpectedly accepted arbitration from the Braves before the 2003 season, gladly taking $14.75 million, knowing he’d never get that much on the open market.
So while it’s a moot point now because of that clause, ask yourself: how many teams would be willing to take the chance of having to pay Beltran more than $18.5 million in 2012 in order to get a pick or two? And if there aren’t many who would, how would the inability of those teams to do so negatively impact Beltran’s market? Maybe it’s a different story if he’s a $10-12 million player right now. But at $18.5 millions? Yikes.
He’s a rental player for almost every team. And he would be regardless of what his contract says about arbitration.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: