Houston Astros Sign Carlos Beltran
The Houston Astros continued the remodeling of their everyday lineup when they signed free agent designated hitter Carlos Beltran to a one year, 16 million dollar contract. Reportedly, the contract also includes a no-trade clause as the part-time outfielder returns more than a decade after he helped lead the team to the NLCS. The move is the third significant move of the offseason as the club has also acquired catcher Brian McCann and right fielder Josh Roddick.
Why the Astros signed Beltran?
Astros designated hitters had a collective .218/.299/.378 slash line last season. Following the McCann trade, it was thought that both McCann and Evan Gattis would also share the DH responsibilities. So, in one sense, this move is a bit puzzling on a number of different fronts. For one, it is surprising that Beltran would agree to come to a place where he would have to play multiple positions (including left field where he has not played) in order to get a full complement of plate appearances. Additionally, McCann was reportedly promised the bulk of the catching duties, so that leaves Gattis without a pure position as well.
All that being said, Beltran’s proficiency as a switch hitter was probably the key factor in the signing. He gives them another left handed bat against tough right handed pitchers. Looking at just last season, Beltran had a .279/.321/.484 against right handed pitching. That compared to a .338/.380/.589 line against lefties. Again, if their aim was to be stronger against right-handed pitching they nominally accomplished that. Of course, it should be noted that his career splits are almost identical.
What can clearly be said following this deal is that the Astros will have one of the deeper lineups in the game no matter how the pieces fit. A.J. Hitch will be able to mix and match lineups on a daily basis to take advantage of matchups and traditional or non-traditional platoon splits. While it might suppress the counting numbers for each of the players involved, their percentage rates will likely improve.
What this deal means for you
I’m not a huge fan of this move for the Astros, but I certainly get it. One year is not a huge commitment to make and there is certainly a chance he has one more season left in that bat before riding off into the sunset. He has made noise about playing a few more seasons, but next season could be his swan song. It would be great for him and for you if he turns in an Ortiz kind of performance.
In his last three seasons (where he has served almost exclusively as a DH) he has averaged 21 home runs, nearly 60 runs, and 70 RBI a season during that time. I suspect the Astros would be satisfied with that level of production. Steamer has Beltran projected to have a .269/.321/.448 slash line with 22 home runs, 72 runs, and 81 RBI. Considering that Fangraphs has the Astros projected to be the number one offense in the American League, those projections might be closer to the mark. So, in other words, we can probably expect something between 2015 and 2016.