Trade Bait: Carlos Beltran

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 04: Carlos Beltran #15 of the New York Mets hits an RBI double in sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 4, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

We continue our series about trade candidates with New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who has bounced back in a big way from knee problems.

I would like to share with you some facts about New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is considered a good possibility to get traded in advance of the July deadline:

  • Beltran owns an .880 OPS, which ranks him ninth among major league outfielders, between Justin Upton and Andrew McCutchen.

  • Beltran leads the National League in doubles, with 26.

  • Beltran has already hit 13 home runs.

  • Beltran has missed only two games on the year.

  • Beltran is a switch-hitter, with good power and discipline from both sides.

  • Beltran has prior playoff experience.

  • Beltran is thought to be a fine defender in right field, and could hold his own in center.

All of those things make Carlos Beltran appealing - one of the most appealing trade targets in the league. There are just three other facts to consider:

  • Beltran is due roughly $9 million between now and the end of the season.

  • Beltran missed a ton of time in both 2009 and 2010 with knee problems, and two winters ago underwent surgery.

  • Beltran is 34 years old.

Yeah. If you just read over the first selection of bullet points, you come away thinking that Beltran could be the jewel of the trade season, assuming Jose Reyes isn't really available. And the fact of the matter is that Beltran could be the jewel of the trade season. But there are some very real red flags, and acquiring Beltran for the stretch run would be a gamble.

From the Mets' perspective, they have every reason to move Beltran in the coming weeks. They've been a moderate success story, but they're still buried behind the Phillies and Braves, and are unlikely to make a charge for the playoffs. Beltran's contract is up after the year, and built into that contract is a clause by which the Mets aren't allowed to offer Beltran arbitration. That means that, if the Mets kept Beltran and watched him sign elsewhere as a free agent, they wouldn't get any compensation.

So they're probably going to trade him. The issue is whether they find the kind of return value they'll be looking for. Based strictly on performance, Beltran warrants a top prospect, or two or three solid prospects. But the team that gets Beltran inherits the same arbitration clause. And the team that gets Beltran inherits his health questions. Even were the Mets to pick up a good chunk of Beltran's remaining salary in a trade, the other team would still have reason to offer less than the Mets would probably like.

The way this probably plays out is that the Mets deal Beltran to a contender for a fine return that doesn't knock anybody's socks off. Beltran is a potential game-changing talent with 11 playoff home runs in 22 playoff games, and his knee hasn't been much of an issue this season. The Mets know that Beltran has a lot to offer. But other teams know that the Mets have to move him, and they can point to his contract and knee issues as reasons to lower the price. I suspect that the Mets and some suitor will meet in the middle.

But even though Beltran's a risk, and even though Beltran's a rental, he's a guy who can alter a pennant race on his own. So this is going to be a fun sweepstakes to follow.

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