MLB Trade Speculation: Should Cleveland Indians Trade for Carlos Beltran?

Jim PiascikCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2011

Carlos Beltran could be just what the Indians need to make a playoff run.
Carlos Beltran could be just what the Indians need to make a playoff run.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With the trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers, the New York Mets officially opened the trading season. With their financial problems, it is expected that Carlos Beltran will join K-Rod on his way out of Queens.

Is it possible that he'll be headed to the shores of Lake Erie?

For all of the hate that has gone Beltran's way in recent years, he is still a very productive player. His .287/.381/.512 slash line, .893 OPS (147 OPS+), 14 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB and 3.1 WAR have made him arguably the best bat available at the deadline this year.

Unfortunately, that level of production causes his cost to rise. The word on the street right now is that it'll take a "top prospect" to get Beltran. Typically the Indians avoid these kinds of deals. ESPN's Buster Olney said as much when he tweeted this on July 16th:

"A perfect fit for CLE (and other teams, too). But can't see CLE giving up Grade A prospect for him, if Mets keep to that price."

The next day, though, Olney tweeted that the door is still open for the Tribe:

"If the Mets pay down the salary of Carlos Beltran, that means that every interested team is in play, including CLE."

Basically, if the price goes down, the Indians are in on the Beltran sweepstakes. This is probably for the best. The Indians aren't built to win in 2011, so all of this overachieving is icing on the cake. There's no point mortgaging the future for two months of Carlos Beltran.

Grady Sizemore's latest injury means the Indians really need to acquire an outfielder at the trade deadline.
Grady Sizemore's latest injury means the Indians really need to acquire an outfielder at the trade deadline.Rob Carr/Getty Images

If the price goes down, however, the Indians should do everything in their power to acquire Beltran.

With Grady Sizemore now joining Shin-Soo Choo on the DL, the Tribe's starting outfield is some configuration of Michael Brantley, Travis Buck, Austin Kearns and Ezequiel Carrera. While Brantley and Carrera have played well (Carrera mostly at AAA), Buck and Kearns have been a collective mess. Together, they produce this awful stat line:

.234/.294/.339 slash line, .633 OPS, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, 66:18 SO:BB, 0.4 WAR in 280 PA.

Surely a contending team can get better offensive production than this. This is where Carlos Beltran comes in.

Imagine replacing the Buck/Kearns offense with Beltran's output: looks good, doesn't it? Add in the fact that the Sizemore injury creates room for him in the outfield (before the Tribe would've had to sit either Brantley, Sizemore or Choo once Choo had recovered from his broken thumb) and the Indians could really use Carlos Beltran.

The kicker in the argument for the Tribe to acquire Beltran is the fact that he is a switch-hitter. While that doesn't explicitly fill their need for a right-handed hitter, Beltran traditionally hits stronger from the right side:

Right-Handed: .291/.362/.524 slash line, .886 OPS, 29 HR & 100 RBI per 162 games.

Left-Handed: .279/.360/.485 slash line, .845 OPS, 24 HR & 95 RBI per 162 games.

Adding Carlos Beltran would remove the left-handed bat of Travis Buck from the lineup (and the anemic bat of Austin Kearns) and add one in that can hurt both lefties and righties.

Beltran's bat also traditionally heats up as time goes on. Over his career, he owns an OPS of .840 in April through July, .904 in August and .869 in September/October. This is the perfect time to trade for Carlos Beltran. 

As long as the price is right (say, Tim Fedroff and a couple of A-ball prospects) nothing should keep the Indians from making a deal for Carlos Beltran. The Tribe's offense has had its problems lately and Beltran would be a welcome addition.

There's only so far the Tribe can go with the team they have assembled right now (only +6 in run differential) Who knows? Maybe Beltran is the missing piece to the puzzle of the Indians' first World Series victory since 1948.