By Rich Coutinho
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So much has been written and talked about in the media about the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes, but the future address of the slugging Mets right fielder is still very much up in the air. What the casual fan needs to understand is as each hour passes, things could change on a dime. For example, last night’s Brian McCann injury could impact the Braves desire to add a slugger, particularly with the questionable health of Chipper Jones coupled with Dan Uggla’s continued migration below the Mendoza line.
The teams in play for Beltran remain the obvious contenders and the Mets stance has remained the same throughout the process — we want a top prospect for Beltran and this is not a salary dump. They continue to ask for the top prospects from the organizations that are interested in Beltran and my sense is that they will not settle for marginal prospects.
There is also the issue of Beltran saying no to a trade since he has a full no trade clause. In speaking to Carlos, I get the sense that he is open to play anywhere that gives him a chance to be in the playoffs. Remember, being traded to the Astros in 2004 created a financial windfall for him in that off-season and although he has answered many health questions with his performance already this year, an impressive post-season run would only enhance his portfolio.
So knowing all of this, the question in my mind is what if the Mets don’t get quality prospect offers for Beltran? Let’s say BJ Upton and Josh Willingham can be had for marginal prospects elsewhere and teams will only move top prospects for a player they will have control of beyond this season — like a Hunter Pence for instance. Now, the Mets have an interesting decision to make — do they settle for less or maybe they explore the trading partner taking on all of Beltran’s salary to get more financial relief. Or how about this scenario — they keep Beltran and hope they can stay in the Wild Card race? They are seven back in the loss column to the Braves who are now facing an extended period of time without their best offensive player.
Now let me be crystal clear here: I am in favor of trading Beltran if it brings a solid prospect or two that can help the team down the line. But just to deal him for excess baggage makes very little sense to me. Throughout this season, Beltran has become a mentor to some of the younger players in this clubhouse and despite the fact the Mets Wild Card chances are remote at best, I do believe the Braves will come back to the pack in the next few weeks because of the McCann loss and because their core bullpen guys — Venters, O’Flaherty, and Kimbrel — are being used just about every night and might hit a wall at some point.
Do I think the Mets will make the playoffs? Probably not but just unloading Beltran for close to nothing would be a bad business move because it would send the fan base the wrong message. The question Sandy Alderson must ask himself is will the player(s) I obtain be major league contributors? And if the answer is I am not sure, then he must resist pulling the trigger on any Beltran deal.