I’ll start this column by saying this is an exercise in futility. The Mets have no interest in trading Carlos Beltran. He has a no-trade clause. Hardly any other team can afford him. I’m wasting my time by writing it, and you’re wasting your time by reading it. Yet I feel the need to write it, and hopefully you’ll indulge me by reading it.
I’ve never been a big fan of Beltran. He certainly is a superb fielder, and he’s a fine hitter. But I don’t like the brand of baseball he plays. He plays it safe. There’s a reason he has the highest stolen base percentage in baseball history — he doesn’t run unless he’s absolutely sure he’s going to make it safely. Otherwise he doesn’t take a chance. A guy with Beltran’s speed should have 40 stolen bases every season. Instead, he’s averaged fewer than 20 per year since joining the Mets.
Remember how he used to sacrifice bunt in the first inning in his first couple of seasons in New York (an annoying, unnecessary habit taken over by Luis Castillo)? He still does it every so often. It got so bad, Willie Randolph was quoted as saying, “I’ve told him not to do that.” A guy with Beltran’s power should be driving in runs, not bunting runners over. Again, a very safe way to play.
Beltran is also reportedly a very quiet guy who doesn’t add much to clubhouse chemistry. He’s not detrimental, he’s just, well, nothing. A guy getting paid like Beltran should be a leader on a team, although you can’t force a player to be someone he’s not.
Beltran is part of the Mets’ heralded “core” that has won exactly nothing. It’s time to change that core. Carlos Delgado is likely done with the team, but that’s not enough. The Mets need to change their personnel, and Beltran is a good place to start. He’s still a superstar player, and would bring in some decent talent who could help the Mets finally achieve something.
There are two ways to go on this — trade him for another high-priced superstar, or get several good major league-ready young players. A trade for prospects would not work because the Mets still want to win right now.
A straight-up trade that could work is for Miguel Cabrera (left). Why would Detroit do this? One word, as always — money. Cabrera is due $126 million over the next six years. Beltran does not come cheaply — he earns $18.5 million per season, but he only has two years left on his contract. That’s an $89 million savings for the small market Tigers. The Mets can afford that without blinking. And since they’ll have a first baseman locked up for the next six years, they’ll have a pretty good trade chip in highly regarded first base prospect Ike Davis, who could be dealt at some point for some much needed pitching. Beltran would replace Curtis Granderson in center for the Tigers.
As far as major league-ready talent, there’s always the Red Sox. There were reports Boston had inquired about Beltran. But that was before they signed Mike Cameron to play right, and spent big bucks on free agent pitcher John Lackey. Boston reportedly does not want to go over the luxury tax threshold, but perhaps they would in order to get Beltran. The Mets would demand Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and one or two other players. Perhaps they could even pry Jon Lester away. Ellsbury would replace Beltran in center, and hitting behind — or maybe in front of — Jose Reyes would form the fastest one-two punch in the game. Buchholz or Lester would give the Mets the young starter they desperately need. In Boston, Beltran and Cameron would be playing side-by-side in the outfield again. Their last appearance on the field together didn’t go so well (left, ouch).
As I said, none of this is going to happen. Beltran isn’t going anywhere. And I’m afraid neither are the Mets, not because of Beltran specifically, but because of the make-up of the team. Things need to change, and making change calls for some tough decisions. Trading Beltran would be one of those tough decisions — one that I think the Mets should make. But they won’t. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.