With the trade deadline looming about six weeks away, it is the time of the year where speculation runs rampant. In fact, be prepared for so many rumors during this time period that you can probably discard about 3/4 of them from your brain. One rumor that I can guarantee you will hear a bunch moving forward is whether or not the Kansas City Royals will visit a reunion between themselves and current New York Yankee Carlos Beltran. For the uninformed, Beltran actually began his big league career in Kansas City, playing there from 1998 through the middle of the 2004 season, when he was dealt to Houston. The Royals even attempted to sign him before the 2014 season; but despite a spirited try, Beltran decided to head back to the bright lights of New York City. So should the Royals bring Beltran back to the midwest? Let’s take a look.
When this subject was initially broached to me back in May, I scoffed. I just didn’t believe that Beltran, at 39 years old, was a good fit for the Royals. He is a below average defender now, which probably leaves him in the position to DH more than anything else and the Royals have Kendrys Morales, who is also without a defensive position in the field. Add in his age and how batters are normally in full-blown regression at this stage of the game, adding Beltran didn’t seem like a step forward for Kansas City. But as we sit here in June, Morales is still struggling and Beltran has done something I wasn’t expecting: his numbers have gone skyward during this last month. With that said, let’s break those numbers down a bit farther to see if he would be a good fit in Kansas City.
Let’s start with the basics. Beltran’s line so far this year sits at .282/.316/.573 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI’s. To really grasp this, for the entire 2015 campaign, Beltran hit 19 homers and knocked in 67 runs while hitting .276/.337/.471. I like to dig deeper though, to fully weigh just how everything breaks down. Beltran’s OPS+ currently sits 135 compared to 120 last year and unless something drastically goes awful, has the same bWAR(1.0) as he did in 2015. His walk rate is down by quite a bit from 2015, as his strike out rate has gone up, but I tend to think you can link those together a bit with the increase in power. In fact, Beltran’s ISO this year has rocketed up almost one hundred points from last year, .291 from .195.
Now to the real meat and potatoes that I feel will give us a good grasp of Beltran’s performance; how hard is Beltran hitting the ball and how often? In an interesting swerve, Beltran’s line drive rate is down(18.3%), his ground ball rate is up(39.6%), while his fly ball rate is the same from 2015. But his Home Run to Fly Ball ratio has doubled(22.5% from 11.1%) while his hard hit rate has gone up(36.7%) and his soft hit rate is down(11.2%, the lowest it has been since 2006). This goes in line with his exit velocity this year, which has been above the league average for all but two weeks this year:
As you can tell, Beltran’s exit velocity has been above 92.5 MPH for a large chunk of the 2016 season, an increase from 2015. In fact last year barely saw him get in the 95 MPH range:
So what does all this tell us? It tells me that Beltran seems to be not only seeing the ball very well this year but is also hitting the ball with some authority. This is a good sign for Beltran, as he is not getting beat by the fastball, a common occurrence for player’s his age. In fact Beltran has been within 5% of his hits coming on fastballs for the last six seasons. It’s a bit odd to see a hitter staying close to his same numbers near the tail end of his career, so the fact that Beltran’s hit selection hasn’t seen a drastic change is a good sign if Kansas City wanted to go after him.
One more positive from Beltran’s numbers is that there isn’t a drastic difference between when he hits from the right or the left hand side of the plate. Against right-handed pitching he is hitting .289/.318/.563 while against left-handed pitching he is hitting .280/.321/.587. I’m actually a bit surprised by this, since Beltran plays his home games at Yankee Stadium, which has that short right field porch. All you have to do to hit it out of Yankee Stadium is to hit the ball 314 feet to right field and you have yourself a home run. This would seem to benefit Beltran when he bats left handed, which he does the majority of the time(142 at bats hitting left handed, 75 right handed). But just peeking at the stats show that there isn’t a giant split in those numbers, which tells me he is just flat-out raking, not just taking advantage of his home surroundings. I’m sure Beltran’s numbers are a tad skewed because of his stadium(11 of his 16 home runs are in New York) but if you are looking at the entire offensive package, Beltran is putting up solid numbers almost everywhere, including his four games in Oakland. If there were concerns about Beltran coming to play in Kansas City and hitting in a pitcher’s park like Kauffman Stadium, I would tend to lean toward that not being a big issue moving forward.
So after looking at all of Beltran’s numbers, the question will be asked again: should the Royals look into bringing him back? I can’t believe I am going to say this but yes, I think they should. With Morales continuing to struggle and the combo of Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando starting to come down to earth, it might be a good time to take a flyer on Beltran. The Royals shouldn’t give up a major prospect(or a needed piece of the current roster) for Beltran, but I tend to think New York won’t ask for something like that. Beltran’s contract only runs through the rest of this season and there have been whispers that he might decide to retire once the season is up. It’s conceivable to think the Royals could take on his contract for the last few months of the season and see if he can help them offensively. It would be assumed that Beltran could see some time in right field(especially if Morales starts to hit) but it makes sense for him to mostly be a DH if he came to Kansas City. The Royals have had some offensive struggles as of late and adding a solid bat for the stretch run might be just what this team needs. While the Royals haven’t looked like a contender during this most recent road trip, as I type this they are only four games out of first place in the American League Central, or within striking distance. Reuniting Beltran with the Royals(plus Alex Gordon returning from the disabled list) might be just what the Kansas City offense needs. Since we all love feel good stories, can you think of a better one than the future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran, returning to the team that he began his career with, and helping them reach the playoffs for the third consecutive season? Sounds like the storybook ending that Beltran’s career deserves.