It took me a long time to warm up to Carlos Beltran. Yet, when he left via trade to the San Francisco Giants this summer, I loved him. He became easily one of my favorite Mets players ever. I wished that all fans could have seen him the way I did, and some of my blolleagues did, but I can certainly understand why about 50% of the Mets fan population did not like him all that much. His personality wasn’t all that grand, and perhaps he was one of those players that would be appreciated more outside of the fishbowl that is headed up by the New York metro main stream media.
Yet there is always a downside to signing a guy, any player in any sport, to the type of contract that Beltran possessed. There is the threat of injury, underperformance, the noose of tying up years and dollars to just one player. In New York, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for the Mets it always is because of their lack of foresight that the guy might not make it to the end. Look at Jason Bay: his numbers started dwindling the second he walked into CitiField. Perhaps he’ll turn it around in 2012, but along with Johan Santana, their contacts will unfortunately tie up resources for short-term, and unless they show signs of improvement, it will be hard to dump.
Luckily, the Mets and most specifically Sandy Alderson got some value out of Beltran. One of the clauses in Beltran’s contract was that the Mets could not offer arbitration once the contract expired. I always assumed there was a “gentleman’s agreement” when offering arbitration, but at Beltran’s age it might have been more advantageous for him to accept arb and see what the market is for him with the Mets. I doubt that would have been the case: I think Beltran was miserable in New York. Yet, Alderson did the unthinkable and unprecedented move of trading Beltran at the deadline in 2011. At the beginning of the season, people thought I was crazy when I suggested it could be Beltran who moved at the deadline. There’s no value to keeping him around, especially if the Mets are not realistically competing. He was owed too much money, I was told. We’d never get anyone of value back. Someone though neglected to tell Sandy Alderson that.
Trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler (Zach? I’ve seen it spelled both ways) was a step in the right direction for the New “New Mets.” Beltran once called the team he signed with in 2005 the “New Mets.” They quickly became “Old Mets” under Omar Minaya’s watch. With the removal of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and subsequent bad vibes of recent seasons, there are a few positives to take away from this.
One is that when Beltran was traded, the Mets agreed to take on most of his salary. In a way, this was positive: though they still paid Beltran to play for another team, they did get some value in return in a prospect that could give years of return on investment. With the grumblings about the financial situation of the Mets as well, perhaps this was a PR move too to show that they could still pay someone who was not playing for them anymore.
The second thing is that Beltran was traded to the then-reigning World Champions. Giants GM Brian Sabean has a thing for older players. It’s no secret that Beltran turned it on in 2004 right before he was a free agent for the Houston Astros in the playoffs that year. What Sabean needed was a Beltran-type to propel them into the playoffs. While Beltran had a slow start, he did his part but the team fell short.
I secretly rooted for the Giants. Well, not so much a secret anymore, since I’m telling all of you. But mostly because I wanted to see Beltran succeed (and for my selfish fan-crush of the Giants pitching staff, especially Tim Lincecum). I would have loved to rooted for Carlos in the playoffs, but they did not make the playoffs in 2011 at all.
My blolleague over at KinersKorner and the Kult of Mets Personalities, Nik Kolidas, said something to me a while back. When I said that I wanted to see Beltran in the playoffs, he said it would be a great thing if they didn’t make it. For the Mets, that is. It meant something actually went RIGHT for the Mets in this trade! Meaning that another team actually gambled wrong and the Mets could have potentially walked away from the transaction better in the long-term.
Zack Wheeler hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Mets yet, or he may never, depending on whether he’s used as a trading chip for someone else. Right now, he’s developing the correct way, something that the Mets have never been known for. How many times have we heard about prospects being rushed just to satisfy a quick need for the team, only to never get over the rushing and never living up to his potential? What he has done is provided some tangible value for Carlos Beltran in the end, and this was one of the first steps away from the damage this franchise has seen in over two decades.
When one door closes, another one opens. This much we know to be true. Things might not be 100% fantastic in Flushing for 2012, but just remember that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining. In this case, we could call the future of the Mets the Wheeler Lining. Finally, it appears that a Mets GM gamed the market to his favor, and potentially could lead to smoother sailing in the future.