Carlos Beltran was a free agent four times in his 20-season career. He signed a new contract in December three times and in January once. As he views his first offseason as a retired player, he is confounded at the glacial pace of the developing free-agent market and wonders about it.
He wonders at whether it has to do with valuing players on their sabermetrics, changes in organizational philosophy or even foul play.
“You don’t want to think about collusion because you never know,” Beltran said Tuesday night at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, where he and Jorge Posada received the Munson Legend Award at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. “I am not saying it’s happening, but it could be. Maybe yes, maybe no. Or it could be analytics that [teams] are not going make commitments to players for seven years like we used to do in the past. Now we want to commit for three or four and give ourselves more chances to save money for future free agent players.”
Beltran was aware that earlier in the day that barbs were exchanged between union executive director Tony Clark and ownership and shook his head about it.
“It’s been a weird offseason for the players. There’s no guys signing. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Beltran said. “And it seems like there’s a lot of good players out there and I guess it has to do a lot with the way they value players today based on sabermetrics . . . Tony Clark is a guy who represents players so I understand that he’s worried about the way the market has played this year. Let’s hope that those guys who are free agents are able to get the deals they deserve and move on with their seasons.”
Posada said, “There’s a lot of players out there that are all-stars. Some of them are 32 or 33 — that’s the prime of their careers. I don’t understand what’s going on . . . It’s frustrating, I know there’s some of those guys that are out there that need a contract because they want to go play and they’re still sitting at home and it’s two weeks away from spring training.
“Baseball needs guys who have been through the ringer. Experienced guys really help out a team in the hunt and later on in October.”
Beltran worries that the rise of statistical analysis in the game — while important — may be missing out on some things when teams evaluate players and this offseason’s free agents.
“Analytics don’t measure the heart,” he said. “They don’t measure the desire of the player. They don’t measure when the player is hot and should be playing against a righty or a lefty or any pitcher in the game. You cannot measure that.”