MLB Free-Agent Contract Prediction: Carlos Beltrán

SAN FRANCISCO, CA : Carlos Beltran #15 of the San Francisco Giants rounds third base after hitting a home run in the bottom of the first inning to tie the game against the San Diego Padres 1-1 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tony Medina/Getty Images)

The last time Carlos Beltrán signed a baseball contract, it was a WHOPPER: seven years and $119 million, courtesy of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.

Beltrán was coming off a brilliant 2004 season with the Royals and Astros, capped by perhaps the brilliantest postseason run in postseasonest history: eight home runs in 12 games.

Beltrán was 27 that season, and exceptionally healthy. He's never been 27 again, he's rarely been so healthy. Beltrán played in 159 regular-season games in 2004; since then he's averaged only 126 games per season.

To his (and the Mets') credit, when Beltrán's played he's played well; his 129 OPS+ over the lifetime of that contract -- now expired, of course -- compares perfectly well enough with his 132 OPS+ in 2004. Beltrán's hitting talent has actually aged quite well; unsurprisingly, his speed and his defense and his durability are another story.

Which is why Carlos Beltrán's not going to get another seven years and $119 million this time around.

Here's something you might not have noticed, though ... Beltrán's OPS+ in 2011 was the best of his career.

Seriously.

Sure, he probably won't duplicate his 152 OPS+ in 2012. But the evidence suggests that Beltrán remains an excellent hitter. Excellent enough to play right field, left field, even first base if he's not afraid of baseball rockets.

How many teams couldn't use a guy like that? Well, most of the poor teams couldn't afford him. But nearly every team with a decent-sized payroll and postseason aspirations has room for a guy who can play right field or first base or first base or DH and hit like an MVP candidate. Even if it's for only 130-140 games.

So many teams that it's impossible to choose just three or four. But I will guess that Beltrán signs a deal for three or four seasons for something like $15 million per season.

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