Is Red Sox Pursuit of Carlos Beltran Genuine or Free-Agency Gamesmanship?

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Is Red Sox Pursuit of Carlos Beltran Genuine or Free-Agency Gamesmanship?
Elsa/Getty Images

Carlos Beltran is no doubt a big-name free agent on the market, and according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, the Boston Red Sox are in on the action:

After winning the World Series, the Red Sox are dealing with the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Mike Napoli might not be back next season. If that's the case, then they are going to need another bat in the lineup.

However, as Dayn Perry of CBS Sports notes, there might be something else causing the Red Sox to get in on the bidding. "Some added motivation might also be raising Beltran's price for, say, the rival Yankees or Orioles."

While the Red Sox would no doubt like to add Beltran's bat to the lineup, they'll be smart with their money like they were last offseason. And with multiple teams interested in Beltran, he could cost too much for the Red Sox.

All of this brings one question to mind: Is the pursuit of Beltran genuine on Boston's part, or is it free-agency gamesmanship?

 

Genuine Interest

The Red Sox's reasons for interest in Beltran should be obvious, especially after the way he's played the last two seasons. Here are his numbers from 2012-13:

Looking at Carlos Beltran's Numbers
Year AVG OBP SLG HR RBI XBH
2012 .269 .346 .495 32 97 59
2013 .296 .339 .491 24 84 57

Baseball-Reference.com

Those are all great numbers, but they don't really mean much until you put them up against some of the other top free-agent outfielders in this class:

Comparing Carlos Beltran to Other Free-Agent OF Over Last 2 Years
Player AVG OBP SLG HR RBI XBH
Carlos Beltran .282 .343 .493 56 181 116
Jacoby Ellsbury .289 .341 .407 13 79 70
Shin-Soo Choo .284 .399 .452 37 121 118
Nelson Cruz .263 .322 .479 51 166 114

Baseball-Reference.com

When you compare the numbers against each other, there's an obvious reason why the Red Sox are showing interest in Beltran. The only player with a better slate is Choo, although he doesn't have as much power as Beltran.

The only knock on Beltran, compared to the others, is that he will be 37 next season.

But that could also be an added bonus for the Red Sox because they won't have to invest in him long-term, like they would with Ellsbury, Choo and Cruz. A three-year deal would do the trick, saving the Red Sox from long contracts like the ones they gave out to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

And if the Red Sox were to sign Beltran, they could move Shane Victorino over to center field and put Beltran in right. That would give Jackie Bradley Jr. another year or two to get ready to take over a full-time role in the outfield.

 

Free-Agency Gamesmanship

Perry makes a good point in saying that the Red Sox could be driving up the price for Beltran just to spite the Yankees and Orioles. After all, they are both division rivals.

While the Yankees are trying to stay within a budget, they still need to acquire a lot of pieces. If the price for Beltran goes up and the Yankees take the bait, they'll have less money to sign a starter or catcher.

Also consider Robinson Cano's contract demands of over $300 million over 10 years. While it's obvious the Yankees won't go to that number, a higher-priced Beltran could force the Yankees to have less to offer Cano.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted the Orioles might have to do a little extra to bring in Beltran:

The Orioles have considered trading Matt Wieters according to a tweet by Rosenthal. Considering he is a Scott Boras client, if the Orioles were to keep him, he likely wouldn't come cheap. That could lead them to pull the trigger on a trade.

And if they trade Wieters, that could open up the door for Beltran to sign with Baltimore.

But the Orioles have also struggled to outbid large-market teams for top free agents. Mark Teixeira is the one example that comes to mind.

The Red Sox may have no interest in signing Beltran. They may feel Bradley is ready to take over in center field, which would keep Victorino in right.

Should the Red Sox sign Carlos Beltran?

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But other teams don't have to know that. For all they know, the Red Sox are looking to add another key piece to keep them on top in 2014.

 

Verdict

After Bradley got a little more experience in Triple-A last year after starting out the season in Boston horribly, he's ready for a full-time role.

He's proven himself in the minors, and now it's time for him to prove himself in the majors.

Because of that, there's no room for Beltran in Boston.

At this point, the Red Sox's interest in Beltran is a smokescreen for other teams to make them think they're going after the right fielder. But the fact is, they don't need Beltran's bat in the middle of the lineup or in the outfield. Then again, neither do the Yankees with Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano under contract.

Boston will be better served spending its money on a catcher and shortstop. Both currently are huge holes and need to be focused on more than the outfield.

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