With the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaching, now is the time for the New York Mets to decide how to clear payroll and stay competitive.
The expectation going into the season was that the Mets would be out of contention by the trade deadline, giving ownership the green light to go ahead and gut their high priced roster in an attempt to retool the farm system.
However, Terry Collins and his club have thrown a wrench into those plans, currently sitting at 39-39 and just 4.5 games behind the wild card leading Atlanta Braves.
How can the Mets, in such financial turmoil, improve their monetary position while still fielding a competitive ball club?
Here are three moves the New York Mets can make to clear payroll and stay competitive.
Carlos Beltran is playing at what may be considered the highest production rate since signing his $119 million contract with the Mets in the winter of 2005.
With that said, the timing may never be more opportune than it is now for the Mets to trade Beltran.
If the Mets choose to hold onto Beltran through the season, they won't gain any compensation for him when he signs elsewhere, as there is a clause in Beltrans' contract that states he will not be arbitration eligible after his walk-year is up.
So, that makes it even more prudent for the Mets to trade their rightfielder now, when they can still get talent in return for him.
Trading Carlos Beltran will certainly have an impact on this team.
He's been one of their highest run producers thus far, and is a vital reason as to why the Mets are still in playoff contention.
However, trading him midseason won't completely hinder the Mets chances of staying competitive in the wild card race, especially when you consider David Wright's targeted July 15th return date.
If the Mets can get steady contributions from David Wright and Jason Bay to go along with Jose Reyes' MVP-type production, then there's no reason to believe this Mets team can't stay in the thick of the wild card race as they enter the stretch run, even without Beltran.
For the most part, Francisco Rodriguez has been a consistent strong-point in the back end of the Mets' bullpen in 2011.
However, shedding his contract and potential $17.5 bonus for 2012 may prove to be too appealing to ignore for Mets management.
What makes K-Rod expendable for the Mets is the presence of Jason Isringhausen.
Izzy has been phenomenal thus far, posting a 2.92 ERA, while his 15 holds are good enough for third among National League set-up men.
He has a great deal of experience as a closer, spending the better part of eight seasons in that role while recording 293 career saves.
The Mets would more than likely net minor league talent in return for Rodriguez, so trading him wouldn't bring in any additional help to the big league roster.
However, they Mets have the luxury of being able to slide Isringhausen to the closer's role, while implementing any of Bobby Parnell, Pedro Beato or Tim Byrdak as the primary set-up man.
Given their bullpen versatility and Frankie's $17.5 option for 2012 if he finishes 55 games or more in 2011, the Mets would be wise to ship him off at the trade deadline.
Trading Johan Santana is a sticky situation for the New York Mets.
He's been rehabbing from offseason rotator-cuff surgery all season, meaning that potential suitors haven't been able to see his level of health first hand.
Team's won't even get a chance to see Santana pitch until after the trade deadline has passed.
However, the appeal of trading Johan and the nearly $71.5 million he's slated to receive between now and 2013 (Not including his $25 million club option for 2014, based on performance incentives) may be too strong to ignore.
The Mets will certainly have to take on some of that money if they expect to trade Santana, as no team in their right minds will pay that sort of money for an aging and injury prone pitcher.
The Mets have managed to stay in contention without Santana in 2011, even with his contract burdening them as an albatross to their payroll.
It's definitely not likely to occur before the trade deadline, or even this season for that matter, but trading Johan should be at the top of the Mets to-do list.
After all, imagine the financial flexibility they'd gain by ridding themselves of his contract.
For a team in financial turmoil such as the Mets, that should be vastly appealing.