MLB Trade Deadline 2011: Which Pennant-Chaser Does Carlos Beltran Help the Most?
From April to June, the king of the contract year was Jose Reyes. If there was a team in need of an offensive spark or upgrade, Reyes was the man to watch.
The Mets front office is increasingly leaning toward keeping Reyes and instead shopping their slugging outfielder Beltran.
Since chances are that if Beltran lands in another NL city, it will be with one of these three pennant-chasing teams, the big question that arises is: Who would Beltran help the most?
The Philadelphia Phillies
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Do the Phillies really need any help?
With the best record in baseball at 61-36, you might be deceived into thinking the answer to that question is a resounding "No way!"
But the fact is that the Phillies, who finished the 2010 season with the best record in baseball, lost in six games to the surprising San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
Perhaps Philadelphia's interest in Carlos Beltran is partly the result of a lesson learned about how regular-season success doesn't always translate into postseason series victories.
The Phillies, Braves and Giants are all clubs whose regular-season success so far in 2011 is due primarily to outstanding pitching staffs.
All three have issues at the plate, and the mighty Phillies, who on paper look great offensively—with the likes of sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup—are no exception.
The Phillies are hitting just .249 as a team, slugging just .381 and have hit 83 home runs. All of those place them ninth out of 16 National League teams.
Carlos Beltran, who's hitting .290 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI, would bolster the offense on a club whose starting pitching is overpowering with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Adding Beltran to the mix would give the Phillies the edge they'd need to stave off a hard-charging Atlanta club, and likely help them secure first place in the NL East.
But since the Giants and Braves have offenses that are inferior to the Phillies, who are closer to the middle of the pack in league batting statistics, they have more to gain from the acquisition of Beltran.
The Atlanta Braves
Jason Heyward hasn't quite lived up to the hype in his second season. He's currently hitting just .229.
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The Atlanta Braves stand to gain more than the Phillies in acquiring Carlos Beltran because as a team, Atlanta has a harder time getting on base. Their team on-base percentage is only .307, which places them 14th out of 16 National League teams.
Carlos Beltran's OBP? Try .387. Having Beltran in the lineup would not only ensure an increased presence on the basepaths for Beltran in Atlanta, but for his teammates that hit in front of him as well, as they should start to see better pitches when opposing managers fear the worst if they put runners aboard for the dangerous power threat.
While the addition of Beltran to an Atlanta lineup starved for men on base would be a big boost, the Braves already rank fairly high in the league in some of Beltran's other specialties, namely hitting homers and driving in runs.
Atlanta has hit 108 home runs so far in 2011, which is third in the league and just four behind league-leading Milwaukee. The Braves have also driven in 382 runs, placing them eighth out of 16 NL teams.
Since Atlanta has a penchant for the long ball and drives in as many runs as they do as a team, they stand to gain still less than one other team in the Beltran race.
The San Francisco Giants
Aubrey Huff, the home run and RBI leader for the 2010 world champions, is hitting just .232 so far in 2011.
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The San Francisco Giants are a curious bunch, and not just because of the facial hair, animal nicknames and spandex tuxedos.
Nobody can seem to figure out exactly how this club, despite injury after injury to key players including 2010 NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, and a nearly nonexistent offense, has managed to post a 57-42 record to lead the NL West by four games.
The defending champions surprised the baseball universe with their World Series victory last season, and are continuing to beat the odds so far in 2011.
The biggest problem they have—just as with the Phillies and Braves—is their offense, which is currently ranked near the bottom of the league in most categories.
And the reason they stand to gain the most from acquiring Carlos Beltran is because of just how terrible their offense is.
The Giants as a team are hitting just .243, with an on-base percentage of just .309 and a slugging percentage of .362. They are ranked 13th in the league in all three categories. San Francisco has scored 361 runs, placing them 14th in the N.L.
So going after a guy like Carlos Beltran would make a lot of sense, right?
Maybe not for a team whose front-office strategy involves heavy investment in the development of its farm system, leading to a reluctance to trade top prospects for a bat that may just be a rental anyway.
But Beltran would help the Giants more than the Phillies and Braves for the obvious reason that the Giants offense is currently not as good as either Atlanta's or Philadelphia's.
In a postseason that promises to be one of elite pitching and low-scoring affairs, incremental advantages offensively become ever more important, and if the Giants acquired Beltran, they'd be closing the hitting gap between themselves and their two nemeses to the east.
So Who Will Actually Get Beltran?
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The analysis of who could benefit most from adding Carlos Beltran to the roster is a whole different calculation than the one used to determine who will actually acquire him.
Given San Francisco's position of not wanting to deal top prospects and mortgage the future of the franchise against the hopes for a present winner, the Phillies and Braves have the best chance out of the teams in the National League.
If Carlos Beltran stays in the NL, it'll most likely be in a Phillies uniform. That's because the Phillies have a higher likelihood of keeping Beltran long-term than Atlanta.
The Braves face the same prospect that the Giants would of having Beltran be a two-to-three month rental before he becomes a free agent and skips town.
But Philadelphia has a higher payroll and more payroll that may be unloaded with lesser-value free agents such as J.C. Romero, Ross Gload and backup catcher Brian Schneider all potentially going off the books in 2012.
The Phillies in recent years have become much like the Red Sox and Yankees, entering the "big spender" franchise category, and that means they have the best shot of any NL team of pulling off a trade for Beltran.