A few hours after news leaked of the Jonathan Sanchez / Melky Cabrera trade, pundits and analysts were quick to pull the fatal trigger on Carlos Beltran‘s return to the San Francisco Giants. If it wasn’t Ken Rosenthal, it was Jon Heyman. And if it wansn’t Heyman, it was Danny Knobler. And if it wasn’t Knobler, it was NBC Hard Ball Talk. And if it wasn’t…you get the picture, right?
So the question begs – exactly how did the Melky Cabrera trade remove the Giants from potentially re-signing Carlos Beltran?
Financially, yes, the Giants are cash-strapped, or, so they’d like you to believe. No, they’re not rolling in Boston Red Sox or New York Yankee money, but they’re not exactly the San Diego Padres either. Despite their payroll “limit”, the Giants are an annual top 10 fixture in Forbes MLB Franchise Value Rankings. Hefty deals that currently sit on the Giants payroll like Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito certainly have put a lid on how much the Giants can actually spend to remain profitable – but will those hamper the Giants effort to bring back Beltran? I’ll just say this – the Giants are one of the few teams in the league that can afford to go over budget every so often if the need presses.
First, let’s look at Jonathan Sanchez. Had he remained a Giant in 2012, he would have been due some place between $5.5-6 million dollars through arbitration. Melky Cabrera, despite his 4 WAR season wont be approaching anything that high. He’ll be due a raise, but when you’re only making $1.25 million the season before, you’re most likely going to top out at just over $3 million, give or take. In short, the Giants saved themselves some money with this deal – how much? That’s yet to be determined, but either way, the Giants found a bit of money to toss in their oh so important rainy day fund. If you want to try and spin the trade from a financial point of view, it could only help retain Beltran’s services as the Giants freed up a bit of extra cash they weren’t going to have with Sanchez on the roster – and that’s not even taking into account the money they *hopefully* saved by not trying to sign a free agent like Coco Crisp. Hopefully, I note.
From an on-field perspective, the Giants essentially have one anointed starter in the outfield and that’s Cabrera. Nate Schierholtz was given a starting outfield job in Bruce Bochy’s end of season presser, but I, probably like you, thought it was a bit odd to anoint a player a starting position before you have any clue of how your outfield is going to shape up for the following year. Brandon Belt? You’d like to think he’ll be on the MLB roster, starting in either left or at 1B, but I’m not sure you can predict what the Giants will do with Belt right now. Andres Torres and/or Cody Ross were both candidates to be non-tendered before Cabrera’s arrival, now they almost seem certain (though I could slightly see one of the two returning as a 4th OF if the money is right).
You also have to factor in what the Giants gave up for Beltran. You don’t trade prospects like Zack Wheeler away for a six week rental without an intention to re-sign that player the following year. Actually re-signing the player is a different story, but the intention is/was there and there is zero way the Giants went into the 2011 trade deadline unaware of their finances for 2012 and beyond.
Whether Carlos Beltran wants to be a Giant in 2012 is yet to be seen. Offers, lucrative ones, from not only the Giants will be there. Chances are, he’ll be able to snag an extra year or possibly two from an American League team, making it that much more difficult for the Giants to bring back Beltran in 2012 – but with that all said, the Cabrera trade? It did nothing to remove Carlos Beltran from the Giants future plans.