MLB Trades: Explaining the Carlos Beltran Trade Market

J SContributor IIIJuly 20, 2011

The switch-hitting slugger may soon be on the move.
The switch-hitting slugger may soon be on the move.Nick Laham/Getty Images

Jon Heyman, one of Sports Illustrated's leading baseball writers, recently wrote a column claiming the Phillies, Red Sox, Braves, and Giants (among others) are the most likely to acquire Carlos Beltran from the Mets

While it is a shock to see two divisional rivals as top suitors, these teams are the most in need of a corner outfield bat, so this really is not breaking news.

Then Heyman speculated that the Mets would insist on Domonic Brown in any deal with the Phillies. 

That tidbit was a head-turner. 

Brown is a player who has survived the Phillies blockbuster trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt the past few years, because to the Phils he was untouchable. 

You have to wonder what makes Heyman think that a two-month rental would make the Fightins consider giving up what they have long been touting as their future.  Not to mention teams generally do not trade a potential franchise player within the division where he can continually haunt their club for the next 10 years. 

Here is what Heyman does not seem to understand: The Mets have little leverage here.

Beltran probably will not cost a top prospect.  They will probably be hoping to get a mid-range prospect, all because of a weird clause they agreed to when signing him six years ago.

When the Amazins signed Beltran, they wrote into his contract that he cannot be offered arbitration when the deal is up. 

It probably seemed like a necessary concession to get him at the time, but it is unfortunate for them now because he would likely be a Type-A free agent (the type that net a first-round pick plus a sandwich pick in the following MLB draft when signing elsewhere after being offered arbitration).

What Heyman fails to understand is those draft picks are what set the trade market.

Because a team is set to receive a first-rounder and sandwich pick, you have to offer talent of at least that level to get a Type-A player at the deadline.  Since Beltran does not have that tag, he immediately becomes less valuable, and consequently the cost of acquiring him drops. 

It simply is not worth it to trade a highly-rated prospect for a two-month rental when you know you will have zero opportunity to recoup that prospect in the draft.

Furthermore, it is no secret that the Mets are in trouble financially.  For a team going nowhere this season, it makes little sense to hold onto Beltran knowing they will not resign him and can get no draft pick compensation for him.  Dealing him now for anything at all is the smart move.

For the Mets to pull more than a mid-level prospect, they are going to need to induce a bidding war on Beltran. 

They appear to be doing just that, given the Heyman report of up to ten teams inquiring on his availability.  Then again, only the Phillies and Red Sox are said to be aggressively pursuing the All-Star. 

Other teams, like the Detroit Tigers, are said to be surprisingly uninterested. Still, more appear to be nothing more than long shots to make a deal.  In the end, it appears to all boil down to the Phillies, Red Sox, Braves and Giants as the most serious candidates to make a run at Beltran. 

So the question will be: Can the Mets play them off on one another?

As of right now, there appears to be two approaches those teams are taking in making a run at Beltran. 

On the one hand, the Giants want to take on Beltran's money entirely and offer virtually no prospects. While the Mets are not in good financial standing, apparently they are unhappy with this arrangement. 

The other approach is what the Phillies and Braves seem to prefer, which is offering a better prospect while taking on very little money.  This appears to be closer to what Sandy Alderson and the Mets' front office is looking for. 

Although Heyman claims the Phillies as the favorites to land the switch-hitting outfielder, do not be surprised if the Red Sox make a serious play for him. 

Much like the Phillies and Braves, the Sox have a strong farm system to exploit in a trade.  Furthermore, they are not a divisional rival of the Mets. 

While it may not seem relevant, do not forget the precarious position the Wilpons are in.  They need to cut payroll next year while also trying to rebuild and keep fan support. 

Dealing one of your core players to a divisional rival is a massive blow to the fan psyche.  However, trade that player into the American League and you can justify getting a little bit less while avoiding most of the backlash. So with all due respect to Jon Heyman, his reasoning just does not check out.


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