Why would the Astros choose Beltran over Encarnacion?
For the last several weeks on Talking Stros, we have discussed who the Astros were targeting. We considered adding Brian McCann and Josh Reddick, and the Astros added those two left-handed bats. The biggest discussion centered around Edwin Encarnacion versus Carlos Beltran. While adding Encarnacion to the middle of the lineup would have been awesome, Beltran made more sense. Even after adding McCann and Reddick, the batting order was very right-handed.
This is why Encarnacion didn’t make sense, for now. The Astros needed the switch hitter more to balance their lineup. Last night on Talking Stros, we talked about where to bat him in the lineup. Jeremy Booth of Program 15 and my co-host Brandon both suggested that Beltran bat third. If Beltran is the same hitter as he was in 2016, he will break up the right-handers at the top of the order.
I could see the benefit of hitting Beltran anywhere between second and fifth in the Astros lineup. The biggest thing to like about Beltran is how he performs against left-handed pitching. He had a .970 OPS versus lefties, with nine homers in 151 at-bats. Granted, that was a very small sample size but perfect for a team that traditionally struggles versus southpaws. This is why the Astros could stick him in the middle of the lineup.
Can’t wait forever!
However, the biggest reason the Astros most likely chose to sign Beltran was it was a short term impact player. Encarnacion’s agent may have over-evaluated the market for his client. He turned down a rumored four-year deal for $80 million dollars to stay in Toronto. He wanted to seek more money elsewhere. His agent kept saying that he would sign quickly, but as time passed, teams moved on.
Listen to last night’s Talking Stros below.
With the Astros bringing Beltran back, this was most likely them waving the white flag on Encarnacion. While there was a different front office back in 2004, they put all their eggs in the Beltran basket. They missed out on several possible additions with the hope of Beltran returning. This front office didn’t want to make the same mistake. They didn’t want to wait for Encarnacion.
Beltran’s press conference.
In the press conference, Beltran said that he has already talked to Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Beltran stated that he told Correa that he would give him whatever advice he can, and he is excited to play with him. Beltran feels like this team is built to win, which is probably what many people feel like across the MLB.
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When he was asked about where he would like to play, he mentioned that A.J. Hinch told him that he would DH and play in the outfield. Beltran would prefer to play in the outfield, but he will do what the Astros want. Playing the outfield was another benefit to signing Beltran. He plays in the outfield, which allows Yulieski Gurriel to play first base.
Investing one year at $16 million of Beltran is better than investing 4-5 years of Encarnacion. As the young players reach arbitration and free agency, the payroll will continue to rise. Tying up so much money in Encarnacion could have had them have to choose between paying Correa or Altuve or someone. Beltran could return in 2018, depending on how he does in 2017. He is back home, let’s cut out the booing.
Look for a trade at some point during the winter meetings for a starting pitcher. While Ken Rosenthal says the team is out on Chris Sale, look for the Stros to seek out a Rays starting pitcher. One interesting name that could be available is Danny Duffy, via Jon Morosi.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***