I think all Yankee fans cringed a bit when they heard that the Yankees had offered Carlos Beltran a third year in his $45 million contract. It had been rumored that the Yankees wouldn't go above two years, but they inevitably bit the bullet and handed out the third year. The underlying assumption in all of this was that the Yankees thought that the first year or two would certainly outweigh the clunker that would be the third year. Well, that didn't work out. At a disappointing 100 wRC+ in 94 games, Beltran has given the Yankees nearly 20 points lower than what they expected. That and the defensive metrics put Beltran at about replacement level, but I'm more concerned with his offense.
This poor performance comes with a caveat, but one that can't be ignored in the future. The first half of the season was dreadful; Beltran hit only 81 wRC+ before the All-Star break and hit only nine home runs in 255 PA. His first half was riddled with injuries after a bone spur was discovered in his elbow and he had to receive (to this date) three cortisone shots and had to undergo extended rehab. This is partially a caveat because Beltran has been much, much better since then. Since the All-Star break he has hit 134 wRC+ with six home runs and has had a .187 ISO in 137 PA. That's pretty darn good, and very much in line with his preseason Oliver projection of 120 wRC+.
So while Beltran certainly dealt with injuries, it's clear that he still has the ability to bounce back from them. But even though it is possible for him to bounce back doesn't mean that he will continue to do so. This injury is just another in a long line of injuries throughout his career: bone spurs and inflammation in his right knee, bilateral knee surgery due to Patellar Tendon debridement, and now a bone spur in his elbow which will lead to offseason surgery. The likelihood of injury is incredibly high in 2015, especially considering his age (it'll be his age 39 season), which would affect his offensive output and his games played.
With all of this in mind, we have an idea of the type of player that Beltran will be in 2015. I do believe that he will be a decent hitter, possibly as high as 120 wRC+, though probably closer to about a 115 wRC+ considering the projections and further injury concerns. If we were to rate that along with other right fielders in the MLB, that would peg him at around ninth of 22 regular right fielders in wRC+. That isn't too bad, but that's with bad defense. If he were to play as the primary DH, then he would be seventh of nine regular designated hitters in wRC+. I doubt that would happen either, because there is the issue of dealing with Mark Teixeira and possibly Alex Rodriguez. Even with poor defense, he could be forced to play in right field.
Beltran certainly will not be good in right field, but he won't be bad either. He could be a one or two win player, which would not be horrible. But with his age, the possibility of an Alfonso Soriano-esque collapse is possible as well. If worst came to worst and his hitting became just dreadful, then there is always the possibility of cutting him. It's already a sunk cost, and then at least the team could look for alternatives. The projections don't hint at that for 2015, but they could for 2016. Next year Beltran looks to be barely starter level, and well below that in the following year.
This contract is probably already a poor one, but there is certainly room for it to be partially redeemed. The value that the Yankees hoped to get from Beltran in the first year is now gone, so they are forced with a future of a possibly decent player for two years. That won't be the worst thing in the world and the money won't destroy their financial flexibility, but it's certainly something the team has to deal with in the future. All of the value Beltran now possesses is in his bat, and if that fails, we may find him going the way of the dodo bird. But if he remains relatively healthy and hits decently, there's no question that he remains partially in right field and at DH. It's not like the alternatives are much better.