On July 27, 2011, the New York Mets made a trade, which will be known as one of the defining moments of Sandy Alderson's career as the team's general manager. The trade sent playoff hero and all-time great Met Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for a stud prospect named Zack Wheeler. At the time, the trade was seen as a necessary evil. The Mets were trading less than half a season of a phenomenal player for a pitcher who could sit at the top of the Mets' rotation for years to come.
Despite his detractors, Carlos Beltran was simply one of the best players in the history of the franchise. In his 16-year MLB career, Beltran has produced 64.5 WAR, and his best year came with the Mets in 2008 at 7.2 WAR. He began his career with the Royals in 1998, where he became one of the best defensive center fielders in the American League.
In 2004, Beltran was dealt to the Astros at the trading deadline, where he mashed opposing pitchers in one of the greatest postseason performances of all time. Beltran signed with the Mets following the 2004 season, and in his time in New York he hit 134 home runs while producing a slash line of .280/.369/.501. He was the second-best statistical player during the 2006 postseason, behind only Carlos Delgado.
After the deadline deal that sent Beltran to the Giants in 2011, he chose not to re-sign in San Francisco, instead signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the Cardinals. Since joining St. Louis, Beltran has hit .282/.343/.493, which is on par with his career averages. Beltran has certainly slipped defensively, but that's not a surprise since he's now 36 years old.
Beltran could receive a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals this offseason, though they've shown little propensity to make a serious offer to him beyond that with their heir-apparent Oscar Taveras seemingly ready to take over.
Beltran could end up costing higher than market value if several teams are bidding for his services. There's been speculation that Beltran could be a good fit for the Yankees. MLB Trade Rumors suggested that Beltran's agent could be looking at a three-year deal, giving his lack of decline on offense. The length may be surprising, but the possibility of $13 million a year shouldn't be, and Beltran could net even more.
Despite the effort to "bring back Beltran," much of Sandy Alderson's decision making will likely be based around the availability of Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. If Alderson can ink either of those players, he might be less inclined to pick up a player who will turn 37 early in the 2014 season.
Carlos Beltran won my heart when he spoke to me from beyond the center field wall at Citi Field a few years ago. No one can deny Beltran's influence on a generation of Mets fans, as Matthew Callan so beautifully described a year ago, but the question at hand is: Will Sandy Alderson pay above market value for a hometown hero on the defensive decline?