Not for nothing, of course – I’d want a package equivalent to Andrew Oliver, a replacement-level RF with upside, and some salary relief, as noted in my AAOP. But yeah, we should trade him.
Before I get to why, let me make the following clear:
I think he can still play CF but would be better off as a RF/DH, both for his health and for the defense of most teams (including ours).
I don’t expect him to be the 7.1 WAR player he was in 2008. I have him pegged at 2.5 WAR with a decent shot at 4 WAR.
In other words, I think Beltran’s still a very good player. So I’m not interested in selling low.
After the jump, read why.
I’ll go through each of the following, individually, below.
- The 2011 Mets are going to be, at best, on paper an 84 win team – a mediocre team almost certain to finish outside of the playoffs.
- Beltran isn’t going to be on the Mets in 2012 and if he leaves as a free agent, we do not get any compensation.
- There are few scenarios in which, come June/July, we’d be able to trade him for more than we can right now.
Point 1: We’re not making the playoffs this year.
The 2011 Mets seem destined to, on paper, to net to 78 or 84 wins. Last year they won 79 with a Pythagorean record of 81-81. They’ll be without Johan Santana for the most part but otherwise return a very similar team, maybe a bit better if for no other reason than we won’t have wasted playing time on negative-value players like Alex Cora (half a win lost), Oliver Perez (-1.1), and Fernando Nieve (-1). Now that doesn't mean they can't win 87 or even 90 games -- it just means that to do so, they'll need to get lucky and then some. One AAOPer puts it well: With this roster, on average, we’ll get to 82 or 83 wins, and “there is a 9% probability of finishing at 90 or more wins and a 17% probability of finishing with 88 or more. “ I think that’s probably a little high, but regardless, a 10-12% probability of having any reasonable chance at the playoffs sucks.
While a bunch of AAOPs have us getting better, they do so with a budget of $150MM. The Mets are probably spending $135MM, but even if they go to $140MM, that’s as almost three wins lost (at $3.8MM/win). There’s little room for the improvement we collectively dream of. I’m pegging it at 84 wins.
Which, with our without Beltran’s 4 WAR, makes us a third or fourth place team. In other words, his value to us this year is very close to zero.
Point 2: Beltran’s value to us in 2012 and beyond? Also zero.
There is very little reason to believe that Beltran will come back, especially given the bad blood between him and the Minaya-lead front office over the last few years. And we’re contractually barred from offering him arbitration; therefore, we do not get any draft picks when he leaves as a free agent.
Combining Points 1 and 2, it’s clear that Beltran’s value to this team is incredibly small.
So the question: Trade him now or wait?
I don’t have a good feeling for the trade market right now, but I don’t think it matters much. If not now, it’ll be close to never.
Point 3: In order for his value to go up, we need to suck as a team while he’s good. Which is unlikely.
A hypothetical of sorts:
Let's say that the Mets retain Carlos Beltran, passing up a bunch of trade offers. The team enters the season and Beltran has a solid year -- definitely increasing his value. On July 31, the Mets, in part on the strength of Beltran's resurgance, are 54-50, five games out of first in the NL East (a tie with the Phillies) and seven out of the wild card.
It's the trade deadline. What do the Mets do?
Most likely, nothing.
They aren't in a great position to add talent. There's little room in the budget, even for a two-month rental, and the farm system probably isn't receptive to a prospect-gutting move. Selling -- specifically, selling off Beltran -- also doesn't make sense; how does a franchise, five seasons removed from the playoffs, trade one of its best players when October, while unlikely, is within reach?
Realistically, this team can definitely go 54-50 through July. The 2010 Mets, after all, finished July with a 53-51 record, and a week or two earlier, many of us were hoping the team would pull the trigger to get Cliff Lee in Queens. I think it’s fair to say that there’s no way Beltran gets traded if the Mets are three or more games above .500 at the trade deadline.
If the Mets aren’t that good, there’s very little chance that Beltran is having a 6 WAR or better season. That doesn’t mean he sucks – he could be a 4 WAR player – but that that’s 1.3 WAR remaining for the year (at $6MM owed) which doesn’t get you a ton.
In conclusion, having a plan means either (a) being Omar Minaya or Isaiah Thomas or (b) coming to terms with this, and looking to trade Beltran now.