Unlike Tuesday’s trade of Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee Brewers, which was clearly financially driven, the Mets have made it clear that Beltran, who batted .285 with 13 HR and 58 RBI in the first half, can be had, but only for the right price.
There’s two ways that this appears to be going:
1. Beltran will be owed about $6M for the rest of the season. The Mets have indicated that they will be willing to throw cash into the deal (essentially pay for Beltran), but will expect a top-flight prospect (maybe, even more) in return.
2. A team will take on the $6M contract but will only give up a second-tier prospect
While no rumors have surfaced regarding which prospects/players will be included in a deal, here’s some deal speculation regarding the five rumored teams above.
The Mets have stood firm that they don’t plan on lowering their asking price for Carlos Beltran simply because they expect a team to make such an offer. With the Giants' dearth of offensive firepower, one might think that the Mets are talking about them. While the Giants continue to extend their NL West lead, for the team to make another serious title run, GM Brian Sabean will need to bring in an intimidating bat.
This season the Giants have certainly received a financial bump from the World Series. All forty-four home games have been sell-outs and the increased revenue gives the front office a little payroll flexibility this summer. Alluding to the two options outlined in the introduction, if the Mets decided to link up with a team that is willing to take on Beltran’s salary, the Giants would be a perfect fit.
While the Mets would surely love Zack Wheeler or Brandon Belt, that won’t happen simply due to Beltran's contract. Teams don’t trade their top chips for a rental these days. Instead, the more realistic deal would be for a second tier prospect like outfielders Francisco Peguero and Thomas Neal or second baseman Charlie Culberson, with the Giants taking on most if not all of Beltan's $6M. Gary Brown, the Giants’ representative at last weekend’s XM Futures Game may be the initial asking price, but I think Sabean values him too highly.
Peguero, voted the top athlete in the Giants system by Baseball America, has continued posting an impressive batting average (.318) at AA-Richmond this season, but has not run nearly as much as he did last season when he nabbed 40 bags. He’s shown great range and has the top outfield arm in the Giants’ farm system. At 23 years old, he’s only a year or two away from the big leagues and would be a very solid haul for the Mets.
I’m intrigued by the fact that the Pirates have been linked to Beltran lately. Part of me thinks it makes no sense, considering the Pirates are a young, rebuilding team and are not, at the moment, serious contenders in the NL Central. However, trading for Beltran does seem to make a little sense. For one it would boost the club financially, drawing in more fans as well as strategically, considering it could keep Pittsburgh in the race.
GM Neal Huntington has indicated a willingness to move one of the team’s prospects for “the right piece”. With that said, the Mets could very well eat Beltran’s contract, but would expect a top prospect in return along the lines of Stetson Allie, a right-handed power pitcher with #2 SP-potential. Despite the fact that Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole and possibly even Luis Heredia all rank ahead of him in the Pirates system, Allie probably won’t be shopped for a two-month rental.
Should the Pirates instead choose to take on all or at least some of the $6M, the Mets could land a mid-tier hitter, someone like Andrew Lambo or Starling Marte, the Pirates representative in the XM Futures Game last Sunday, or potentially two lower-tier pitching prospects. Either option is certainly feasible. Up at the big league level, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Alex Presley seem to have things locked down, allowing for a prospect outfielder to be moved.
However, the Pirates farm system is packed with top pitching prospects (Taillon, Cole, Heredia, Allie), making some of the lesser arms expendable. Behind the big four, there’s a clear second tier of almost big-league ready arms (Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson) followed by a solid group of 20-year olds (Zach von Rosenberg, Colton Cain and Zack Dodson).
For the sake of creating a deal, the Pirates will most likely move Jeff Locke or Bryan Morris simply to create room on the 40-man roster for Beltran with Zack Dodson, the pitcher with the highest ceiling out of the third tier, rounding out the deal.
Should the Tigers pursue a deal for Beltran, it appears they will have at least a little room to take on some of Beltran’s $6M. If New York has to eat the entire deal, the Tigers would almost certainly be forced to give up Andy Oliver, a big, intimidating southpaw who is clearly the Tigers’ second-best pitching prospect behind Jacob Turner. Instead, the Tigers can take on $2-3M and offer up a slew of pitchers including starter Casey Crosby and reliever Chance Ruffin.
Chance Ruffin is off to an incredible 2011 season, already rising to Triple-A Toledo despite being selected in just last year's draft. With already polished stuff, he could feasibly contribute to a big league bullpen now. Obviously, the knock on Ruffin as far as trade value is that he is a relief pitcher, but he’s been one of the most dominant closers at the collegiate level and already as Double-A and Triple-A.
Crosby on the other hand, has been brilliant as a starter, but has serious injury concerns after being shut down for the 2010 season in July due to elbow swelling and again this year hit the DL with a strained rotator cuff. Ruffin is the safer chip and could realistically come in and compete with Bobby Parnell for the Mets closer job in 2012.
Without question, bringing Beltran over to replace the struggling Magglio Ordonez would be a significant upgrade both offensively and defensively, but Ordonez is getting paid far too much to be a backup corner outfielder and backup DH. I don’t realistically expect the Tigers to pursue Beltran too hard.
With one of the top offenses in MLB history, GM Theo Epstein is looking to add even more firepower to the Red Sox this summer. Right fielder JD Drew's full-season slump has Boston scrambling externally and internally for a right-handed replacement. This weekend, Epstein admitted that right field is an area of concern but ESPN’s Buster Olney reported this morning that rookie Josh Reddick will be given the shot over the next week to outright earn a starting role.
Despite Boston’s big budget, many writers including Joel Sherman of the New York Post have speculated that they will not be spending big bucks this summer. For Boston to become a trade partner for Beltran, the Mets would likely need to eat most if not all of the $6M remaining.
After decimating the farm system in last winter's Adrian Gonzalez trade, Epstein will likely look to keep top pitching prospects, Anthony Ranaudo and Drake Britton out of talks and instead offer up a package of a mid-tier pitcher like Stolmy Pimentel or Felix Doubront and a low-to-mid tier hitter.
The 21-year old Pimentel was much more heavily touted entering the 2011 season but has since faded a bit due to an 0-10 start to 2011 with a 9.46 ERA across High-A and Double-A. He’s failed to make it out of the third inning in his last six games. Regardless, he’s projected to be a major-league #3 starter and has a solid four-pitch repertoire. Meanwhile, Doubront has emerged this season, performing well at Triple-A Pawtucket and could play a factor out of a major-league bullpen this fall, although he projects to be a starter.
With the Mets looking for prospect depth in the outfield or middle infield, the Red Sox would likely add in someone like 2B Oscar Tejada or OF Bryce Brentz. Tejeda is a bat-first middle infielder who looks to have a tough time breaking into Boston behind Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie and SS prospect Jose Iglesias. Tejeda projects to be a major-league average shortstop who will hit for a solid average and a little pop. Bryce Brentz, a 2010 supplemental first rounder, has emerged as a legitimate corner outfield prospect in 2011 batting .329 with 20 homers across Low-A and High-A. The former pitching prospect has a solid arm for right field and could progress to the majors faster than expected. Brentz has the higher ceiling and would make sense included alongside Doubront.
With the Rays sitting five games back of New York in the AL Wild Card, the time to bolster the team's chances for the postseason is now. Yesterday, executive VP Andrew Friedman was quoted saying they would be willing to acquire a rental player for the last two months and have “a really deep system” that allows them to move a mid-tier prospect for an immediate impact player.
Based on the front office’s track record, the Rays are far more likely to shed salary than take on more, meaning a Beltran to Tampa Bay deal would likely require the Mets to eat the $6 million. If that’s the case, the Rays could assemble a two-player package without taking much of a hit or they could simply go one-for-one offering up one of their mid-tier pitching prospects, southpaw Alex Torres or righty Alex Colome. Either player should be enough and would keep elite pitching prospects, Matt Moore, Chris Archer and Jake McGee, although New York would certainly bring up their names in primary discussion.
Alex Torres was one of the pieces that came back from the Angels in the 2009 Scott Kazmir trade. Command issues (and the pitching log-jam in Tampa) has kept Torres down at Triple-A Durham in 2011 where he has posted a solid 3.23 ERA and 9.4 K/9 but also a 4.8 BB/9.
On the other hand, 22-year-old righty Alex Colome is only down in High-A Charlotte but one could argue he’s even more major-league ready than Torres. Colome has great raw stuff including a plus fastball and a power curve that also projects to be a plus pitch. He’s struck out batters at a K/9 rate above 9.0 in each of his last four minor league seasons, and sits at a more than respectable 7.9 in 2011. He struggles with command at times (3.7 BB/9) but could very well be a frontline starter in the future or relief ace even sooner. Colome looks to have the higher ceiling compared to Torres, and would be more likely to be traded for Beltran.
If just Torres or Colome is not enough, a low-tier hitter like outfielders Ty Morrison, Todd Glaesmann or second baseman Ryan Brett could be added into the deal.