For months, Mets fans have talked themselves into the possibility of former Met and awesome hitter Carlos Beltran returning to the franchise he played with from 2005 through most of 2011. For months, that idea has had cold water repeatedly thrown on it, whether by the Mets' murky financial situation or reports in the press. It now appears, however, that the chances of a reunion are, well, less slim.
Mike Puma of the New York Post talked to Beltran, who said he would not rule out a return to the Mets. Puma also said that the Mets would consider bringing back Beltran. The chewing-gum-loving outfielder hit .296/.339/.491 in 2013 with 24 homers for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, there are several factors that may prevent a reunion. The first is Beltran's defense. Once an upper-echelon center fielder, Beltran is now a well below-average outfielder, grading out at -18.7 per UZR/150 in right field this year. Even if you wisely distrust UZR, the decline in his defense is noticeable and as he enters his age-37 season with bad knees, it's fair to wonder whether he could be relied to play the outfield even five times a week.
The second is what the Cardinals plan to do with Beltran. It is not yet clear if they plan to make him a qualifying offer—a one year, roughly $14 million contract—this winter. If they do and he declines it, the Cardinals would receive compensation for losing him in free agency. It would also mean the Mets lose their second round pick if they were to sign him. The Mets would probably have some apprehension at giving up a second-rounder for a 37-year-old free agent. There's also the possibility, as Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin suggested, that Beltran simply accepts the offer.
The third is probably the biggest hurdle the Mets would have to overcome, and it's themselves. While any sane organization would realize that having Beltran is a privilege, the Mets did not. Instead, they decided to rake him over the coals in the media twice. The first dates back to when Beltran decided to undergo microfracture surgery. The Mets, for some reason, announced that he did so without their permission and then intimated that they would seek a lawsuit against him. Anthony DiComo of MLB.com has a good summary of the events here.
The other was the Walter Reed Army Medical Center debacle, in which the organization "seethed" at the fact that Beltran skipped a non-mandatory event—which he had attended in the past—to help with his charity's efforts to build a high school in Puerto Rico.
It's not a stretch to imagine that Beltran was merely paying lip service publicly while privately wanting nothing to do with the Mets. Of course, Puma also reported that Beltran and Jeff Wilpon chatted at the 2013 All Star Game and may have cleared up some bad feelings.
For now, Beltran to the Mets is like any other story linking a player to the Mets: an unsubstantiated rumor. But the idea that Beltran may return to Flushing isn't a complete impossibility is comforting.