Every pending free agent in baseball wants to be like Carlos Beltran.
In 2004, Beltran went on an absolute tear for the Houston Astros in the playoffs and carried the team to the World Series, turning that performance into a seven-year, $119 million deal with the New York Mets prior to the 2005 season. (h/t ESPN)
Like I said, everyone wants to be like Carlos.
For these three players, they're about to learn what happens when you don't perform in the playoffs—and how costly a lesson that can be.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
There's no disputing that 31-year-old Josh Hamilton was going to command an annual salary between $20-to-$25 million, but no general manager who enjoys their job was going to risk giving him anything more than a two- or three-year deal before the playoffs began.
There was never any chance of Hamilton pulling down an Albert Pujols-like deal this winter. None.
Especially after his lackluster play down the stretch run of the regular season, culminating with his lazy error in the final game of the regular season against the Oakland A's with the AL West crown on the line.
But Hamilton didn't show up once again in the Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning with runners on the corners and nobody out, Hamilton hit into a double play. Sure, it scored the run, but it was indicative of the way his regular season ended.
Josh Hamilton is going to get paid. But at this point, a three-year deal that averages $20 million a season is probably the high-end of the offers that he can expect to receive,
Nick Swisher, RF, New York Yankees
Back in August, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that Nick Swisher was looking for a multi-year deal that exceeded $100 million, similar to the seven-year, $126-million deal that Jayson Werth inked with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2011 season. (h/t CBS Sports)
That's not going to happen, especially after Swisher's postseason struggles continued in 2012, where Swisher posted a .167/.235/.233 batting line with two RBI and 10 strikeouts in eight games.
I've used this example for Swisher previously, and it's really quite telling:
Player X: 146 G, .284/.361/.473, 21 HR, 85 RBI
Swisher: 150 G, .268/.367/.483, 26 HR, 87 RBI
So tell me—who is Player X?
Player X is the Los Angeles Dodgers' Andre Ethier, the same player who signed a five-year, $85 million extension with the Dodgers earlier in the 2012 season.
If you are basing Swisher's value on regular-season numbers alone, then there's no disputing that he's worthy of the same deal Ethier got.
But you have to take the postseason into account, and Swisher disappears when the games matter the most.
Ethier's extension works out to an average annual salary of $17 million.
With qualifying offers for free agents being $13.5 million this winter, Swisher is going to wind up seeing offers that pay closer to the qualifying offer than they do Ethier's annual salary.
Kyle Lohse, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Kyle Lohse had himself a phenomenal regular season, posting a 16-3 record and 2.86 ERA over 211 innings of work, the highest number of the 34-year-old's career.
Therein lies the issue.
Lohse was a mediocre pitcher up until last year, and while his two-year run of success has been impressive, if I'm a general manager, I'm not rushing out to give him a three- or four-year deal at $15 million a season.
He doesn't have a lengthy track record of success and I'd point to his last two playoff starts as a red flag. Lohse allowed six earned runs and 13 hits over his last 7.2 innings of work, walking six and striking out only three.
So was that a result of simply hitting a wall, or is that a forewarning of things to come?
ESPN's Buster Olney wrote earlier this month that some unnamed executives expect Lohse to get between $60-to-$75 million on the open market. (h/t ESPN)
After witnessing his collapse in the biggest game of the Cardinals' season, those numbers seem a bit on the high side.