The New York Mets have a lot of catching up to do if they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2011. They currently sit in last place in the National League East, eight games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies and five games behind the Florida Marlins in the wild-card standings.
With a fanbase ready for some new blood in Flushing and the team going nowhere fast, the Mets are expected to start looking into trading some of their assets sooner rather than later. One of those assets is outfielder Carlos Beltran.
With Beltran off to a fantastic start, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a trade and the teams that could potentially acquire the 34-year-old.
After injury-plagued seasons in 2009 and 2010, in which Beltran played in a grand total of 145 games, he has bounced back strong in 2011. Going into Wednesday’s action, Beltran is hitting .282/.380/.513 with five HRs and a .231 ISO, and he has seen his BB percentage climb back up to 12.4 percent and his K percentage decrease to 15.4 percent.
Beltran appears to be almost back to the player he was at the start of the 2009 season, where he was an All-Star and hit .325/.415/.500 with 10 HRs before multiple knee injuries almost ruined his career.
While all of those numbers are great, perhaps the most important number for Beltran is 35. Thirty-five is the number of games Beltran has played this year for the Mets. And that’s not 35 out of 100—that’s 35 out of a possible 36 games Beltran has played in this season.
Depending on if Beltran waives his no-trade clause in his contract (we’ll get to that in a jiffy), he won’t take a king’s ransom of prospects to acquire. Teams these days aren’t willing to give up top prospects for a 34-year-old OF with two bad knees and an $18 million contract.
Two mid-level prospects should be enough to get Beltran. This isn’t Jose Reyes we are talking about here.
This has been the best-case scenario for the Mets with Beltran: a proven star who has come back healthy and is producing numbers that rival those of the top outfielders in baseball.
The biggest hurdle for the Mets in attempting to trade Beltran is that Beltran has a *full no-trade clause in his contract. Not only would the Mets have to work out a trade with a team, which is always difficult to do, but they would also have to get Beltran to agree to waive his no-trade clause and go to that team.
Any team trading for Beltran is taking a major risk in doing so. Yes, he has played in all but one of the Mets’ games so far, but can he hold up for the entire season? That’s the question teams will ask themselves. Whomever is contemplating a trade for Beltran will have its medical staff hard at work making sure Beltran’s knee is structurally sound.
While Beltran has bounced back with the bat, his transition to right field hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been great either. Going from center field to right is not an easy transition at the major-league level. He doesn’t get the best jump off the bat in right and has let some balls go over his head and has let many balls drop in front of him.
Beltran’s -2.3 UZR ranks near the bottom of all major-league right fielders this season. However, in Beltran’s defense, Ichiro Suzuki is dead last in right field UZR (-6.6), and I personally don’t think Ichiro is the worst defensive right fielder in baseball. Sometimes that statistic isn’t the best way to measure how good someone is defensively.
Now that we looked at the pros and cons of acquiring Beltran, let’s take a look at the teams that could potentially have a need for the former Kansas City Royal and Houston Astro...
Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Joyce is killing it for the Rays as a right fielder, but they could certainly use some help at DH. Rays DHs this season have hit .238/.272/.411 this season. Acquiring Beltran to go along with Johnny Damon, Sam Fuld and Desmond Jennings would give the Rays some options as the season moves on.
The question is whether or not the Rays will pick up the remaining balance on Beltran’s contract for the remainder of the season. History says they won’t.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have soured on Nick Swisher ever since the end of last year’s postseason, and his slow start this season (.296 SLG) hasn’t helped the situation. The Yankees flirted with Beltran in the past, and he would be a good fit in right playing in a short field.
Beltran would also give the Yankees another option at DH just in case Jorge Posada continues to flounder in that role.
The American League Central is up for grabs, and anyone can steal this division. Tiger OF’s are hitting .239/.297/.359 with seven HRs on the season.
The idea of the Mets and Phillies getting together on a trade seems unlikely, but it’s not impossible. The Phillies’ interest would depend on how much confidence they have in Domonic Brown coming back from wrist surgery.
In nine games in Triple-A, Brown is hitting .353/.425/.588 with two HRs.
I am not sure Seth Smith is the ultimate answer in right for the Rockies. He’s your classic Rockie player who does very well at home (.333/.375/.595 with two HRs) and does very little on the road (.232/.306/.393 with one HR).
Beltran would give the Rockies a guy who can hit on the road and at home and hit both right-handed and left-handed pitching.
*Contract information is courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.