Carlos Beltran has always been a darling to saber-slanted baseball nuts like me. He’s a tremendous slugger, has consistently posted above-average OBPs, played great defense in center field at his peak and is one of baseball history’s most efficient base stealers. He belongs in the Hall of Fame, and the overdue but kind treatment he has received from the national media during his career’s second act gives him a chance to make it, yet.

The New York Yankees reportedly have interest in Beltran. On the surface, that makes sense: New York has a real need for offense, and have already demonstrated their aggressiveness in free agency. The trouble, though, is that the Yankees have Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells under contract for 2014. Beltran doesn’t fit on a roster that already includes that trio.

Don’t get me wrong: Beltran is better than any of those players. The Yankees also ensured that they wouldn’t be overly committed to Wells or Soriano, by getting the majority of each player’s salary covered by the teams from whom they acquired them. The trouble is that those players are all old, and so is Beltran. Those players are all (now) poor defensive outfielders, and so is Beltran. They’re all impatient hitters, and so (now) is Beltran.

You don’t want three guys like this on one team. Four would be untenable. The Yankees need to get younger, and if not younger, than markedly, not marginally, better. Beltran doesn’t do either. He only walked 38 times in 600 plate appearances in 2013. He’s stolen just 22 bases, and been caught 10 times, in the last four seasons. He’s purely a corner outfielder at this point, and not an especially good one.

Now, one season does not necessarily change what Beltran is, permanently, and the statistics (especially that low walk rate) might not even accurately describe the player he was last season. As he turns 37 next April, though, it’s completely irresponsible to forecast improvement. At best, he may regress back toward the patient hitter he was at his best. Even then, though, one would expect his power and BABIP skills to erode. It’s also worth noting, though not worth panicking over, that he had a meager .281 OBP and .249 True Average against left-handed pitchers in 2013, far lower than his career norms.

It’s tragic when great players don’t get acknowledged or treated as great until they have ceased to be great. It seems to happen too often. Beltran is in danger of being overrated during the final stages of his career, and while there are worse things of which to be at risk from Beltran’s perspective, as an appreciator and admirer of his career, it saddens me. Beltran deserved better throughout his prime, and now, he might end up being a bitter disappointment to the fans of baseball’s foremost franchise, because the public perception of his skills have outrun his fading talent.

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