What is Beltran Worth?
Even though the Royals haven't been completely eliminated from the
division race, they're season is pretty much done. Due to a
significant lack of quality starting pitching and some injuries on
offense, they face a very steep climb out of the AL Central cellar,
which is saying something when you are 4 games behind the team that
nearly broke the
record for losses in a season last year. So
the rumor mill shopping Carlos Beltran, the only significant player
they have to offer to a contender, has been turned on full tilt.
One of the rumors that intrigued me has Beltran going to San Diego
along with third baseman Joe Randa in exchange for Sean Burroughs,
Xavier Nady and another player although it's unclear who it would
be. Presumably it would be a lesser prospect.
It was intriguing because Padre GM Kevin Towers has emphatically denied
that Burroughs is going anywhere. With good reason: the 23-year
old has been pegged as a star player since his early days in the
minors. And he surely wouldn't be going anywhere for a player who
is rumored to be a 2- or 3-month rental as Beltran's agent, Scott
Boras, has been pretty emphatic that Beltran will test the market this
winter regardless of which team trades for him.
Frankly, I couldn't see the appeal of the deal from the Padres
side. I saw lots of reasons why the Royals would love to do it -
they'd get rid of Randa's contract while getting a younger, better and
cheaper player to replace him in the line-up and on the field.
They'd also get a pretty good hitting outfielder/cornerman in Nady and
another player to help replenish a farm system that doesn't look like
it will produce much the next couple of years.
Sure, Beltran would look nice in the Padre outfield; his defense would
be a huge benefit. But what's to say that Petco won't affect him
the same way it has affected the Padres. It seems like a huge
risk on the Padres part to trade so much for him. It wasn't even
a year ago they traded
Oliver Perez and Jason Bay for Brian Giles
and that was with a near
guarantee that Giles would sign with the team. Beltran offers no
I just couldn't see it. In fact, I got so desperate, I asked Rob
Neyer why the Padres would want the deal. It should be noted that
Neyer is a Royals fan and frequent amateur GM for the team in his
columns. His response: Burroughs has only 60 extra base hits in
his major league career (970 at bats). There's no guarantee he'll
be a star, or even a good hitter.
Two questions immediately came to mind: 1) if there's no guarantee
he'll become a good hitter, why would the Royals want him in exchange
for the best player they've had in 20 years?, and 2) is the number of
extra base hits an indicator of future performance? Burroughs
just turned 23, but what amounts to 36 extra base hits a season isn't
all that good.
I think we can dismiss the first concern quite easily. The Royals
obviously do think Burroughs will be a good hitter. Otherwise,
they wouldn't target him. And say what you will about the
organization, they do a decent job identifying hitters. Not
super, mind you. But they did pluck Angel Berroa - last year's
Rookie of the Year - from the sabremetric A's in a similar trade in
2001 when everyone thought that Johnny Damon was the cat's pajamas.
So what about point #2. Does Burroughs lack of power mean that
there's a very good chance that he won't become a good major league
hitter? Rather than just talk off the top of my head, I decided
it'd be a better idea to look at evidence. There are a lot of
people out there who think Joe Randa is a good hitting third
baseman. Joe Randa, Burroughs presumed replacement in this deal,
wasn't even in the majors when he was Burroughs' age, much less had 60
extra base hits. Maybe we should set the bar a little higher.
Last year, Burroughs had 40 extra base hits as a 22-year old. A
quick look at 22-year old third basemen in the live-ball era who had
similar totals yields George Kell (37), Carlos Baerga (41), Ron Santo
(41) and Bob Bailey (42). OK, George Kell is in the Hall of
Fame. Ron Santo should be. Carlos Baerga was an All-Star on
the Hall of Fame track before he let off the field distractions derail
his career. Bob Bailey played for Pittsburgh and Montreal
primarily in the 1960s and 70s and finished with 189 homers. His
best season was 1970 in which he hit 28 homers with 84 RBI and an OPS
of 1.004 for an Expos team that finished 16 games under .500.
That sounds like a pretty good hitter to me.
In fact, looking at the list of 22-year old third basemen who had more
than 30 extra base hits is pretty impressive group: Dick Allen, Hank
Blalock, Freddie Lindstrom, Travis Fryman, Scott Rolen, Ken Keltner,
Aurelio Rodriguez, George Brett, Troy Glaus, Frankie Frisch, Jim Tabor,
Carney Lansford, Eric Chavez, Adrian Beltre, Jim Ray Hart, Buddy Lewis,
Ryne Sandberg, Larry Parrish, and Pie Traynor, along with the
aforementioned five. If you're counting at home, that's five
Hall of Famers (Kell,
Lindstrom, Brett, Frisch and Traynor), three more who should be (Santo,
Allen and Sandberg) and eight
others who have been All-Stars, a group that doesn't yet include Chavez
or Beltre, who will be. The only two on this list who didn't
become stars are Rodriguez and Tabor.
It's not just extra base hits where Burroughs measures up,
either. Using runs created per game for his young career so far,
Burroughs (4.63) matches up well againt George Brett (4.78), Troy Glaus
(4.67), Carlos Baerga (4.60), Gary Sheffield (4.51), Ron Santo (4.42),
Ryne Sandberg (4.10), Buddy Bell (3.93), Robin Ventura (3.52), Aramis
Ramirez (3.49), Geroge Kell (3.29) and Brooks Robinson (3.22).
Had his home parks been relatively neutral rather than pitcher friendly
Qualcomm and Petco, Burroughs would rate even higher.
So while it's true that there is no guarantee that Burroughs will
become a star, history indicates that the odds of him becoming a
good-to-great hitter are very, very good. Given their track
trading for young hitters, it seems likely that the Royals probably
As a fan of the
Padres, I'm hoping Kevin Towers knows this too. If he does end up
this deal and is not able sign Beltran this winter, it could rank as
one of the worst trades in team history. And for a team that has
traded away Ozzie Smith, Roberto Alomar, Fred McGriff and Gary
Sheffield either just before their peak years or during, that's