From all accounts, it is a mere technicality now.
Players who have been in the league 10 years and with the same team the last five can only be traded after a 24-hour waiting period from the deal being signed to it being announced.
According to numerous reports, that is all that is in the way of this being official. Perhaps most telling, Beltran cleaned out his New York Mets locker and is not in the lineup tonight. CSN Bay Area and ESPN are reporting that he has boarded a flight from Cincinnati to join the Giants on this road trip.
By all accounts, Beltran will waive his no-trade clause and join the first-place Giants in time to wreak havoc on his former rival Philadelphia Phillies in the rubber match of the midweek series between the two 2010 NLCS teams.
The Mets will pick up $4 million of the remaining $6.5 million on this year's contract. The two-time Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove center fielder played in right field for the first time this season to protect his knees after he missed at least half a season in both 2009 and 2010.
In return for the slugger, hitting .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI, the Mets get coveted prospect Zach Wheeler. He was the sixth-overall pick in 2009, the Giants' second-ranked prospect and ranked 33rd in the league. At Class-A Advanced San Jose, the hard-throwing pitcher was 7-5 in 88 innings with a 3.99 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 47 walks.
Thus, the Giants have made another trade (following the one for Jeff Keppinger) after the All-Star game to get a hitter in the top-half of the lineup without giving up anyone from their current roster. This should boost the team's offense that ranks 28th in the league.
The drawback for San Francisco is that he increases the glut of outfielders the Giants currently have (listed in order of how entrenched they are in the lineup): Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand and eventually Pat Burrell.
Beltran reportedly will replace Cody Ross in the lineup, playing right field while Schierholtz will move to left field. But he should either replace the Torres/Rowand platoon in center field, moving Schierholtz over to center and allowing Beltran play right.
Only if Rowand or Torres regains the hitting form they had in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Ross should be the odd-man out. Right now they are combining to hit .240, and only have seven home runs and 37 RBI because they have already gotten 516 at-bats thanks to Rowand playing some in left field.
Beltran will replace a player hitting over .250 instead of one of the three positions hitting south of that number: First base (Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt have combined to hit .237 with 11 HR and 54 RBI in 123 games mostly due to pinch-hitting), shortstop (Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot: .209, 3, 29 in just 95 games) or catcher (Eli Whiteside, Chris Stewart: .218, 3, 16 in just 86 games).
Beltran, who is a free agent after this season, may not be a rental. The Giants could let Burrell go and relegate Ross and Rowand to the bench, keeping Beltran with a big contract to reward what still could now be a championship run.
The team has the money to re-sign him. And he will love the Bay Area and feeling in that locker room. Having that chemistry and being on an elite team will go a long way into him returning.
The Giants are replacing even Ross with Beltran and sitting a weak No. 6 hitter in the lineup with a legitimate No. 3 or 4 hitter. Even though they remain weak in the bottom-third of the order, the Giants are strong in the second through fifth spots, and that should give a team enough with the best pitching staff and an uncanny ability to win close games.
Thursday's rubber match might give fans a tease about what should be an epic October showdown in the National League.
UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Carlos Beltran has been traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitching prospect Zach Wheeler. The Mets will pay $4 million as well, covering part of Beltran's contract.
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