Trading Manny for Carlos Beltran?

Unfortunately, Peter Gammons is now Insider only. He’s pretty much the reason I now subscribe to it … that and I got annoyed by how many things ESPN locks us out of. I can say with conviction that MVN will never do what ESPN is doing with alarming speed.
Anyhow, Sons of Sam Horn has all the excerpts that you would care for. There is one that is creating a ton of discussion on SOSH, and I wanted to examine this in more detail.
Peter Gammons makes passing mention of the Red Sox trading Manny Ramirez. He states that that if the Mets continue to freefall and Carlos Beltran cannot dig himself out of the hole, that “if and when the Red Sox reiterate the offer they made in July of Ramirez for Beltran” the Mets may have to consider it as it would save them over $30 million.
Let’s assume that Manny and Beltran both make the same amount of money, and the contract expires at the same time. Everything else, offense, defense, speed, age (Beltran is five years younger) applies.
Beltran’s best position is center field, and he ranks 13th in the majors in Zone Rating (.879) while Johnny Damon is at .876 – just below Beltran. Johnny Damon is second in the majors in Range Factor at 2.96, and Beltran is seventh at 2.67. Damon seems to be the better fielder, and we should leave him in there. However, Beltran could certainly shift over to right field, which in Fenway Park is basically another centerfield. If Beltran resists this, we could ask Damon (after signing him, of course) to move to left field. There are options here, but the most tantalizing is to see Beltran in right field, and shift Nixon over to left field, where we take advantage of his solid fielding. His range, prior to this year, seemed to be on a decline. He had a 2.04 Range Factor in 2002, went to 1.95 in 2003, and 1.88 in 2004. Interestingly enough, he checks in at a high of 2.40 ever since becoming a fulltime starter this year. This will not last, so if you move him over to left field, he will still amply cover ground and our defensive range, speed, and arm all would turn into legit threats.
Manny, on the other hand, is sixteenth in range factor for left-fielders at 1.88 and a miserable .715 zone rating, dead last. For comparison, the second last guy is Hideki Matsui, at .812.
Here are the offensive tables for the 2003-2005 season for both Manny and Beltran. Nothing special or intrinsic about it. Batting average, OBP, slugging, and the other interesting factoids. These are what I consider the “bottom-line” statistics – you may find high line-drive percentages that were caught meaning you were unlucky and have a chance not to be next season, but we’re comparing it now and the last two years. They’re the best comparisons for past, present, and future.

Manny Ramirez Team G R 2B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS  
 2003 BOS 154 117 36 37 104 97 94 3 1 .325 .427 .587 1.014  
 2004 BOS 152 108 44 43 130 82 124 2 4 .308 .397 .613 1.009  
 2005 BOS 132 96 29 34 120 71 106 1 0 .282 .380 .560 .940  

Carlos Beltran Team G R 2B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS  
 2003 KC 141 102 14 26 100 72 81 41 4 .307 .389 .522 .911  
 2004 KC 69 51 19 15 51 37 44 14 3 .278 .367 .534 .901  
 2004 HOU 90 70 17 23 53 55 57 28 0 .258 .368 .559 .926  
 2005 NYM 132 74 29 15 66 50 83 17 5 .270 .335 .424 .759  

Manny is the clear, clear, obvious, no-doubt-about-it choice here. I don’t even really need to go into why – it’s right there for your perusal. Even if Manny continues his decline, his OPS should still match or better Beltran’s “career” line with Houston last year. You can argue that Carlos Beltran is still going to improve. I can argue that Carlos Beltran is 28 and peak years are considered to be 26-32. There have been studies showing that older baseball players nowadays push their peak years a little beyond – so let’s say 26-34. This helps Manny because it means he may not drastically tail off, as old baseball players generally did in past seasons.
Manny Ramirez, at 28, had a 1.154 OPS, in his last year for Cleveland. 1.154 versus .759? If you want to throw this year out and look at last year, because you believe Beltran’s line better represents his time in Houston, certainly. At 27, in his second-half, Beltran posted a .926 OPS and a total of a .915 OPS. This was considered his “breakout” season. Manny at 27 had a cumulative OPS of 1.105 and a second-half of 1.161. Really, there’s no comparison. Manny is so far ahead of Beltran, that we may actually lose productivity even if you factor in Beltran’s added defense and arm.
And then the contracts, ay, the contracts which make the clear answer to this trade so much clearer.
After making $23.28 million this year, Manny Ramirez will have precisely this much due to him by the Red Sox.
2006: $19.00 million
2007: $18.00 million
2008: $20.00 million
So – Manny has exactly $57 million more due to him after this year, for exactly three years, and zero deferred money. Meaning that when his contract comes off the books after 2008, it literally comes off the books.
After making $17.10 million this year, Carlos Beltran will have precisely this much due to him by the Mets. Please note that his contract is due up in 2011.
2006: $14.00 million
2007: $14.00 million
2008: $10.00 million
2009: $10.00 million
2010: $10.00 million
2011: $10.00 million
2012: $3.14 million
2013: $3.14 million
2014: $3.14 million
2015: $3.14 million
2016: $3.14 million
2017: $3.14 million
2018: $3.14 million
This means that after six years, Carlos Beltran becomes a free agent and after thirteen years, the Mets will finally stop paying Carlos Beltran this contract. His average value per year is actually less than Manny – Manny counts for $20 million against the payroll, while Beltran counts for $16.43 – but the difference is Kevin Millar. Carlos Beltran and Kevin Millar are still not worth Manny Ramirez money – just factoring in the offense entirely.
Now, one could say this would give us increased flexibility to go out and get other people. Perhaps on a year-to-year basis, for we would be paying Beltran essentially $8 million less per year than Manny, and that extra $8 million could be poured into someone else. However, because of the AAV, if we reinvested that $8 million, then according to the payroll, we are paying out $4 million more! That’s more luxury tax for you.
Manny Ramirez is currently 33 years old. Beltran is currently 28 years old. When Ramirez’s contract is up in three years, he will be 36. When Beltran’s contract is up, he will be 34, and when he is finally not being paid for his services rendered from 2005-2011, he will be 41.
We get locked in for more years, at a similar payroll price to pay someone for less offense (vastly less offense, even if you revert him to .900+ OPS form) … just because we want out of Manny’s contract so badly?
I argue that we will have more flexibility with Manny’s contract coming off the books and owing him exactly zero dollars then paying Beltran for less production through 2011 and owing him through 2018. One could also argue that we could force the Mets to pay some of Beltran’s contract. Well, it won’t happen because the goal of the Mets trading Beltran would be to save money. If we swapped Manny and Beltran, that means they save $30 million. It’s a nice amount, but it’s not a ton, and I have a hard time believing they would want to kick in more money.
In a nutshell, my argument is that we should not trade Manny for Beltran. I doubt the speed and defense is that big enough an upgrade over Manny’s offense (factor in that Damon would probably leave as a free agent – would you rather Damon and Ramirez or just Beltran and a league average left fielder?)to justify the trade. From the money end, I argue that Manny’s contract actually improves our flexibility because he comes off the books sooner.
In an even smaller nutshell…