Worst Giants Move: No Beltran

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The always-excellent Dave Cameron of Fangraphs broke down the 10 worst deals of the MLB offseason on Wednesday. There is, fortunately, no mention of the Giants in his post.

However, the Giants did make one critical mistake: not bringing back Carlos Beltran.

Beltran, as we know, waited a long time before signing a contract in free agency. There wasn't nearly as much interest in him as many thought and he signed a (relatively) cheap, low-risk deal with the Cardinals for two years and $26 million.

Brian Sabean addressed the lack of Beltran on Wednesday, pointing out that the Giants had "sincere interest" in Beltran but things just didn't work out.

"We had sincere interest in Carlos," Sabean said. "Whether it was him or anybody else, we didn't want to be cut short. We weren't going to wait out that market. We ran that risk."

Here's the thing, though: in not waiting, the Giants went out and picked up Jeremy Affeldt's option (and immediately put him on the trading block), re-signed Javier Lopez, and traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan.

There was concern about Beltran as a leftfielder too.

"The problem was, if he became the left fielder, we still had [Aubrey] Huff under contract. We still had [Brandon] Belt, who perhaps makes the team as the first baseman," Sabean said. "In doing so, can you really juggle all that?"

Um, yes. You plug Huff in at first and Beltran in left field. Then keep being a jerk to Brandon Belt until Huff struggles enough to yank him. (And if he doesn't and either Huff or Beltran get hurt, you have backup.)

"In meetings and in gut-check decision time, we felt there was no way we could compromise the pitching," Sabean said. "There was no way we could weaken that spot. As it turned out, we think we were fortunate we were able to make the Pagan deal."

The problem with all of this is that Sabean simply won't say "we wouldn't pay the money Beltran wanted." Understandable, I suppose, but it's ultimately why they passed. And maybe Beltran will struggle in St. Louis. Maybe he'll deal with injuries.

But parts of September 2011 were pretty magical with Beltran in the lineup for the Giants, and they had a chance to bring back a high-quality free-agent bat at a low-risk proposition. If Beltran didn't pan out, he wouldn't be stuck on the books in Barry Zito fashion.

And paired with the Tim Lincecum deal, he'd have given the Giants a two-year window to really make  another run at the World Series.

Maybe Melky and Pagan will both break out in 2012 and this won't matter. But if the Giants struggle on offense again this year, it might be uncomfortable to see the numbers Beltran puts up in St. Louis.

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