Just how accurate are some of Fred Wilpon’s statements from his interview with "The New Yorker"? No doubt Mets fans still are frustrated with Carlos Beltran (called third strike to end 2006 NLCS, injuries and inconsistencies), but Wilpon’s comments about Beltran’s contract do not stand up to objective analysis.
Contract vs Performance
Beltran’s contract (7 years, $119 million) signed prior to the 2005 season, has been viewed as somewhat of a mistake by the Mets, both by Wilpon and others. Unfortunately, this probably is a combination of three things:
1. Poor first season in a Mets uniform
2. Taking strike 3 in the 2006 NLCS
3. Lack of appreciation/difficulty in quantifying defensive performance
Contrary to Wilpon’s comments, the Mets have received a very good return on the Beltran contract, and here’s why:
It is widely agreed upon within baseball and analytics that the value of a Marginal Win (defined as the average cost teams are willing to pay for each additional win above replacement) in the current environment is somewhere around $3-5 million. In other words, teams are willing to pay roughly $3-5 million per additional win added, if they are valuing the win properly.
Fangraphs.com assesses the value of a player’s performance in a given year by dollars, making it easy to compare how much surplus or deficit value a player provides in a season. Used in conjunction with Wins Above Replacement (if someone is worth 2 WAR then that season is valued at $6-10 million), the chart below shows how Beltran stacks up over the last six seasons.
Carlos Beltran Salary vs “Value”
Beltran’s career with the Mets got off to a rough start, as he produced just a .266/.330/.414 line in 2005, accounting for 2.2 Wins Above Replacement and $7.5M in value. Certainly not the superstar quality return the Mets were expecting at the time.
From 2006-08, Beltran provided a distinct surplus in value, relative to his contract. He was paid $42.5 million over those three seasons and accumulated 19.6 Wins Above Replacement, including 7+ in two seasons, putting 2006 and 2008 as legitimate MVP-caliber seasons. From 2006-08, Beltran was paid $42.5 million, but he produced $80.2 million in value.
Beltran’s consistency certainly has made it difficult to value him properly. While he does in fact have those three MVP-level seasons, the seasons before 2006 and after 2008 produced below-expectations results. In 2009, Beltran was fantastic when he played (.325/.415/.500) but accumulated only 357 plate appearances.
2010 continued a nasty downward trend. Beltran was not only injured, but also ineffective. He produced a .255/.341/.427 line (eerily similar to his first season with the Mets) and accumulated only 255 plate appearances. He produced only $3.9M in value while being paid $18.5M.
From 2005-10, Beltran made $89.5 million, but he produced, according to the value of a marginal win, approximately $105 million in value. If we factor in the signing bonus in his contract, he was paid $100.5 million. So, including the signing bonus, Beltran was "worth” $105.6 million.
In other words, a near-exact return on the contract Wilpon handed out.