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Carlos Beltran will have to play another season in right field, somehow

Even after a stellar offensive second half in 2015, his defense is still a serious concern going into next season.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Beltran is not a good defensive outfielder. He has not been good for a very long time--this is no surprise. It becomes more pertinent, though, to note his defense in 2016 for two reasons: firstly, because his defense was atrocious last year; and secondly, because there is no chance he gets moved to the designated hitter. I think many believed, at least at the time of the three-year, $45 million signing in 2013, that by the end of the contract he would need to be at least a part-time designated hitter, but at least his hitting could keep him afloat.

That really isn't an option anymore, because Alex Rodriguez is cemented in that position, and his absolute success last season only solidifies that. This means that Beltran will need to be an everyday right fielder, and that could pose some serious challenges. Consider, firstly, Beltran's defense from 2010 to 2015, measured in UZR/150, FRAA/150, and DRS/year:


Other than FRAA doing some strange things--as can be said about all defensive metrics--the trend is clear. Using a linear projection, Beltran is projected for approximately -19 UZR/150 or -21 DRS/year in 2016. That, if allowed, would likely make his remaining tenure an unmitigated disaster.

Think about Beltran's offensive output in 2015. He put up a .346 wOBA, which is 14.1 weighted Runs Above Average by Fangraphs. That isn't too bad, because even -20 runs below average on defense would still result in a player that is worth about a win and a half, depending on how much you squint. But if you consider that Beltran is projected (by Steamer)  to hit .328 wOBA (or 6.2 weighted Runs Above Average), then this looks much, much worse.

If Beltran is about six runs better than average on offense, yet could be worth nearly 20 runs below average on defense, he would be a nearly replacement level player. That would be very, very bad. You have to wonder if the Yankees stick with him past the trade deadline if his offense truly does regress that far; I suppose it does depend on how the rest of the team is hitting. But if he takes a step backward a la Alfonso Soriano in 2014, he might be packing his bags, especially with defensive questions abound.

Obviously, the Yankees have a better grasp of Beltran's defense than the lay fan. They have in-depth scouting reports, coach comments, HitF/X data, statcast data, and probably their own proprietary projection system. I think, though, that this is a circumstance where even some very flawed defensive metrics and our eyes plainly agree that Beltran is completely incompetent defensively.

I don't know what the solution would be in a worst-case scenario where Beltran's offense really takes a plunge. I suppose Aaron Judge is around the corner, but he has offensive concerns of his own. There is also an influx of upper minors depth in the outfield, like Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and even Ben Gamel, as well as utility man Dustin Ackley. That doesn't fill me with confidence either, and it's probably too soon to even speculate about that scenario, but it's December and all we have is speculation and the ability to ponder. Suffice it to say: Beltran's bat is something to watch, because I'd rather stare into the sun than watch him play defense. If he hits like in the second half last season, we may be pleasantly surprised. But if he regresses like many older players--even the great ones--do, then we may find ourselves in June or July, hoping that Aaron Judge is major league ready,