The San Francisco Giants and Carlos Beltran have expressed varying interest in remaining together since the disappointing end to the 2011 season. Beltran had stated that he would consider re-signing with the Giants if they significantly upgraded their offense first. One suspects he had former teammate Jose Reyes in mind.
The Giants have indicated all along that they would like to have Beltran back at the right price and the right number of years. Beltran has been mentioned in Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox rumors most prominently so far, but the market for the switch hitter seems to be shaping up slowly.
The Giants traded Jonathan Sanchez for center fielder Melky Cabrera last week. Cabrera is probably not the offensive upgrade that Beltran had in mind, but he is an upgrade nonetheless. Cabrera enjoyed a career year in 2011, and is entering his final year before he can test the free agent market. I expect him to be significantly motivated and in shape, like he was in 2011.
Cabrera most likely signals the end of the Andres Torres era in San Francisco, but that is okay. Giants fans will never forget him for his role on the 2010 World Series team, but that was his year. Cabrera is a significant upgrade over Torres in center field.
Cabrera is by no means a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he may be the Giants' best option as of today. His career on-base percentage of .331 isn't ideal, and while he is relatively fast, his stolen base percentage needs work, as he stole 20 bases in 30 attempts in 2011; not horrible but as is the case in many of his stats, there is room for improvement.
Cabrera had 201 hits and scored 102 runs in 2011, and he is durable, having played in at least 147 games three years in a row.
I think the addition of Cabrera will have more of an impact on the Giants' lineup than most fans think. I also think that, while he isn't a mega-acquisition, Cabrera may appease Beltran and push him toward re-signing with the Giants.
From the Giants' perspective, Beltran is an outfielder who certainly can still hit and isn't going to get a four- or five-year deal on the free agent market. Two years plus an option could get the deal done, and I believe that he is one of the players that will open up the Giants' checkbook past their stated payroll of around $125 million.
Beltran knows the game of baseball, and when he looks at the Giants' pitching coupled with a much different lineup than he played in, he has to realize that he could be the difference for the team. Cabrera leading off, followed by Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Beltran is a very good, if not great top of the lineup, and if healthy, will score more runs than the 2011 version with their eyes closed.
Many Giants fans lamented that Beltran was the cause for the Giants' late-season slide; that his personality didn't fit in the Giants' tight clubhouse. I would argue that a clubhouse that was as tight as the Giants' was reported to be wouldn't fall apart because of the arrival of one player who is in no way a cancer, but maybe isn't quite of the mold of most of the other players.
The Giants fell in August last year because everything finally caught up to them. The injuries got worse and they stopped playing over their heads. Beltran would be a great signing for the Giants, and could very well be the difference that the team is looking for.