Tuesday July 19, 2011
MLB reports: The MLB rumor mill is working overtime as the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st quickly approaches. With less than two weeks to go, the speculation is heating up as to which players will be changing uniforms. Francisco Rodriguez is already a Brewer and Jeff Keppinger was just traded to the Giants. But rumors persist that the Mets and Giants are not finished with their activity. With both superstars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran eligible for free agency at the end of the season, talk is that one or both players will be moved out of New York. With the possibility of the Mets trying to retain Reyes, the most likely scenario is Carlos Beltran changing addresses. At the center of the speculation is the San Francisco Giants. The defending World Series champions have been simply atrocious this year offensively. With their cleanup hitter Buster Posey out for the season, the team cannot afford to miss out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes.
The Giants were very fortunate to win the World Series last year. The playoffs are a tough road and requires the perseverance normally of a balanced team to make it to the end. The Giants, while solid in the pitching department, were essentially using smoke and mirrors to score runs last year. The team relied on the likes of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez on offense. While useful role players, these players are not the big sluggers that are supposed to win championships. Now with Buster Posey out, the Giants are forced to rely on Eli Whiteside, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell and company to score the team’s runs. Possessing one of the best, if not the best pitching staff in baseball, the Giants can ill-afford to limit itself offensively and essentially waste such strong pitching. To defend its championship, the Giants will have no choice but to beef up their offense.
Carlos Beltran has been one of the most consistent hitters in the game over the course of his career. Taking a look at his numbers, we see a consistently high level of production:
|162 Game Avg.||621||110||175||28||106||28||.282|
|KCR (7 yrs)||3134||546||899||123||516||164||.287|
|NYM (7 yrs)||3108||544||870||148||552||100||.280|
|HOU (1 yr)||333||70||86||23||53||28||.258|
|NL (8 yrs)||3441||614||956||171||605||128||.278|
|AL (7 yrs)||3134||546||899||123||516||164||.287|
His resume speaks for itself. Beltran is a 1999 AL Rookie of the Year. He has won four Gold Gloves for his defensive work in the outfield. He won two silver slugger awards. A lifetime .282 AVG, .360 OBP and .495 SLG. In 2004 he hit the magical 30/30 mark (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), and was actually two home runs short of 40/40. For the most part, Beltran in his prime could do it all. Hit home runs, hit for average, steal bases, catch and throw the ball like few players could. One of the few true five-tool players in the game. The aberrations we find in Beltran’s statistics were the last two years. Due to various injuries, particularly knee woes, Carlos Beltran was forced to miss much of the last two seasons and saw his production sharply decline. Now healthy and extremely motivated, Beltran has come back in a big way.
Beltran played in his sixth All-Star game this year in Arizona. While he rarely steals bases these days, the rest of Beltran’s game has returned as shown by his numbers. The only issue surrounding Beltran is whether his knee will hold up for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. From there, a team will need to determine his long-term health and abilities in awarding him a free agent contract. But from all indications, Beltran is a player that can still play ball at the highest level when healthy. An ideal fit for the Giants that lineup that desperately needs run production.
How bad has the Giants offense been in 2011? Going into tonight, the Giants as a team are hitting .243, with a .309 OBP and .363 SLG. The team has collectively hit 63 home runs and scored 356 runs. Yet somehow the team continues to sit in first place in the NL West, 3.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. If not for Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants pitching staff, the Giants would be in the basement of the division. The run of the Giants over the past two seasons has been incredible, but clearly linked to its pitching. To support its pitchers and put runs on the board, the Giants have to step up and beef up its offense. While Jeff Keppinger is a useful player, he will not be enough to get the job done. Rather, the Giants need to acquire a bomber, the way the Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday a couple of years ago in their playoff run. Or closer to home, when the Astros acquired Carlos Beltran in 2004. Beltran hit an incredible 8 home runs during the Astros playoff drive that year. Coincidentally, Beltran was an impending free agent that year as well. Fast forward to 2011 and the very same Carlos Beltran is available. Having a fantastic campaign, Beltran in 2011 has hit .287 to-date, with 14 home runs, league leading 28 doubles, with a .381 OBP and .512 SLG. Again during a free agency year. Definite playoff calibre numbers and a perfect fit out west in San Francisco.
The Giants and Carlos Beltran are well suited for one another. San Francisco needs a strong cleanup hitter. Carlos Beltran wants to compete for a World Series championship and boost his free agency stock for one more prime contract. The odds of getting a ring don’t get any better than joining the defending world champions. Some experts have speculated that Beltran may not waive his no-trade protection to join the Giants. I am not buying that theory. The Giants are a terrific organization to play for, with highly regarded management, a fantastic ballpark in a beautiful city, and are one of baseball’s most historical and treasured teams. Beltran would look fantastic in a Giants uniform. What better way to showcase his abilities and earn his last free agency contract than by playing for a contender and fighting for a World Series championship.
Remember 1994, the year that Beltran was traded from Kansas City to Houston and played like a man possessed in nearly single-handedly leading the Astros to the World Series. That performance, combined with his numbers to-date, earned Beltran that off-season a 7-year, $119 million contract from the Mets. Now Beltran is on the cusp of free agency again and has the potential to “earn his pay” so to speak with the Giants in the same manner that he did with the Astros in 1994. With Scott Boras as his agent, Beltran will surely receive the advice that playoff performance equals free agency dollars.
The Giants will have a choice in making a pitch to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. They will either have to absorb the majority of the contract and provide fairly decent prospects, or have the Mets absorb a large chunk of money and offer 1-2 elite prospects in return. The Giants are well stocked in the minors and have excellent pitching at the major league level. The Mets may request Jonathan Sanchez off the major league roster or a combination of minor leaguers from the farm. Outfielder Thomas Neal and pitcher Zack Wheeler could be on the Mets wish-list. Or perhaps the Giants will be able to give up a package of lower level prospects and not lose their top prospects and major league level. The decision will boil down to the money involved and players offered by other teams in trade packages.
At the end of the day, much like the Yankees must acquire Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies (see our recent feature), the Giants have no choice but to trade for Carlos Beltran. The Yankees cannot afford to waste their superior offense without enough top-level pitching and the Giants in turn, need to surround their talented pitching staff with consistent run production. It is a lot of pressure to have a team win 2-1, 3-1 games night-in and night-out. Carlos Beltran has proven that he can carry a team on his back when he is on his game. Well, in 2011 he is definitely playing at his highest level in years. Beltran needs the Giants for his next contract and a chance for a ring, while the Giants need his bat and glove to increase their chances of a championship. The perfect marriage, expect Beltran to be a Giant by the end of July. This acquisition makes too much sense for the Giants and Brian Sabean will continue to stock his team on route to a possible back-to-back World Series run for the Giants. Carlos Beltran to the Giants. Not a question of if, just a question of when.
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