Anticipating Beltran's return

Carlos Beltran’s rehab is going well, as he has a .389 AVG in 10 games for Single-A St. Lucie, and it looks like he will return to the Mets after the All-Star break. For some reason, people are confused what to do when he returns. The obvious answer is to bench Jeff Francoeur. Among 26 qualified RFers, Francoeur rates 20th in AVG, 25th in OBP and 24th in SLG.

But this article is not about pointing out for the umpteenth time why Francoeur stinks. Instead, I want to look at why people do not give Beltran 1/10 the amount of love that they give Francoeur. I know all about what a great team player and gamer Francoeur is. I also know how unbelievably fantastic Beltran is at playing baseball.

Let’s run down some of Beltran’s accomplishments. He was Rookie of the Year in 1999. He’s a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Many years ago, Bill James devised the Hall of Fame Monitor to rate how likely someone was to be elected to the Hall of Fame given previous voting results. If a player scores 100 points on the metric, he’s likely to be enshrined. Beltran already has 82 points.

In his career with the Mets, Beltran has a .281/.368/.505 line, which works out to a 127 OPS+, which is incredible for a CF, and ranks first among his position mates from the 2005-2009 period. He’s made four All-Star appearances and won all three of his Gold Gloves while in New York. His 2006 season is all over the team’s single-season leaderboard, including the best mark ever in team history for runs (127) and tied for the team lead in homers (41).

And yet, people are suggesting that the Mets explore trading Beltran rather than playing him when he comes back. And that’s not even the worst suggestion. Some fans want the team to employ a four-person platoon.

Let’s get one thing straight – if Beltran is healthy enough to play every day there is no reason on earth to platoon him in any way, shape or form with Francoeur. Those two are nowhere near the same zip code when it comes to ability to play baseball.

At least with the idea to trade him, crazy as that might be, at least there is some justification there in that the salary relief the team would get – $18.5 million plus the pro-rated portion of the same salary for 2010 – would be beneficial. But the Mets are a big-market club and there is no way that Beltran’s salary should be considered a detriment, especially given his performance while with New York. According to Cot’s, Beltran has been paid $75.9 million by the Mets from 2005-2009. According to FanGraphs, he has delivered $101.5 million in value in that time span.

So, why does the fan base not embrace Beltran? Here are some potential reasons:

1. His first season in New York was a disappointment.
2. His spectacular 2006 season ended by looking at a called third strike in the NLCS.
3. His HR output dropped significantly since 2006.
4. He had surgery against club wishes prior to the 2010 season.

Yes, 2005 was a poor year for Beltran, still with the way he played since then you would think would have more than canceled that out. I think the second item on this list is the one that bothers most people. It bothers me, too. And the fact the Mets have not been back to the playoffs since only compounds the significance of that event. But it’s still just one AB.

While Beltran’s HR output has dropped, he still has been a fantastic player. His 2008 season was nearly as valuable as 2006 (7.5 WAR for 06 and 7.1 for 08) despite the drop of 14 HR. And last year has to be discounted because of the missed time to injury and the overall adjustment that the entire team underwent in its first season in the new ballpark.

And no one should be disappointed that he had surgery against the team’s wishes. After the way the Mets handled the injury plague of 2009, no one in their right mind should have had 100 percent confidence in the team’s medical staff. When Beltran did play last year, it was clear he was playing in a lot of pain, the type of pain that rest alone was not going to cure.

No one has any idea if Beltran can return to the player he was before this latest surgery. But I am dreaming of what type of impact the Beltran of old can have on the 2010 Mets lineup. I am stoked to see the Mets trot out a team that has this batting order:

Reyes
Pagan
Wright
Beltran
Bay
Davis
Thole
Tejada

The Mets have realized that Rod Barajas cannot handle an everyday load. When they needed to add another pitcher, the club decided to have Fernando Tatis come up with a questionable injury rather than send Thole down. In his brief major league exposure, Thole has a .386 OBP in 70 PA. Tejada has not performed quite so well at the plate, but has looked good defensively at both 2B and SS.

This season has exceeded everyone’s expectations, thanks in large part to outstanding pitching performances from Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey. The second half of the season offers hope of a healthy Carlos Beltran to replace a significantly below-average offensive performer in Francoeur to lengthen the lineup and make the offense even more dangerous

Now the club just has to make sure it doesn’t do anything dumb like trading Beltran or platooning him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *