Before anyone takes this out of context – Carlos Beltran is not the root of the New York Mets recent struggles. I’m as frustrated as the next fan, but this team looked shaky going 2-4 before the All-Star Break.

That said, Beltran is clearly not helping. The five-tool superstar is a mirage, replaced with a AAAA doppelganger.

Beltran has been a potent offensive player who can provide from several positions in the lineup. His career average sits at .282 as of Monday afternoon. Over the course of 13 years, he’s belted 273 home runs, knocked in 1,036 teammates and stolen 286 bases. Too bad his 2010 numbers are nowhere near the others. In 10 games – or 36 at-bats – Beltran is hitting .167, 1 double, 1 RBI, no home runs and no stolen bases.

The question now in front of owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon is just which Carlos Beltran has returned to them. Beltran had his right knee scoped out in January to alleviate the osteoarthritis. Although he missed far more than the expected three months, microfracture surgery has a well-documented history of ending professional athletes’ careers. So now that he’s finally returned to Queens, is it worth putting up with more painful performances in hopes the true Beltran returns, ala Jose Reyes? The shortstop needed about five weeks before he returned to All-Star form.

But even if you’re assured that’s all it’ll take to get the superstar back, that might just be too steep an asking price at this time. The Mets are freefalling with a total lack of offense. The league is catching up to Ike Davis and Jason Bay’s power outage this season is well documented. Now-fourth outfielder Jeff Francoeur is part of the problem too, hitting under .250 and spoiling many of his rare starts with 0-for’s at the plate. Assuming the Mets could find a way to stop the hemorrhaging and find a new lineup sans Beltran that can smoke the ball, that may be the way to go.

One of the few benefits Beltran can provide now, other than providing a big name, is his defense. He’s not running as quickly or fluidly as he did pre-surgery, and the large brace on his knee likely isn’t helping. However, Beltran was a top-notch defender before and still has plenty of knowledge and talent to continue flashing the leather.

Some may call him soft, even though it’s more likely Beltran simply makes hard plays look effortless. Before this season, he appeared in at least 140 games at least 9 of 11 seasons. Whether or not he fully recovers this year – or at least as much as he can with the arthritis –Beltran is likely to find resurgence next year. After all, he’s a Scott Boras client and his seven-year, $119 million contract expires after the 2011 season.

The problem is, what do the Mets do now?

3 comments on “The Beltran Dilemma

  • hernandezhof

    The basic question comes down to this choice:

    1.) Put up with Beltran’s struggles for 2-3 more weeks in the likely expectation that he would return to All-Star form for the last six weeks of the season.
    2.) Bench him, causing major upheaval and controversy, with the thought that the replacement level performance you get out of Frenchy or Carter is somehow going to help the team.

    Is that really something worthy talking about? I don’t think so. Beltran at 85% is still a better player than any of the other options the Mets have behind him. And the quite realistic chance that he would return to form soon is worth the risk anyway.

    The CF/RF debate is one for next year – if Beltran still needs the brace it just makes logical sense to move him to RF. But they are not going to do it now – the man has never played RF in his life. He needs spring training to get used to it. Worst case, we lose some range in CF while gaining some in RF. Not a huge difference over the course of 1/2 a season.

  • Mike Koehler

    But what if it takes more than three weeks to get up to speed? For that matter, can we afford to play with a weakened lineup while we’re trying to overcome offensive woes and climb back into the playoff hunt?

    How would benching him cause controversy? He wasn’t here for months and things were just fine, and he’s obviously not playing well in a difficult time. I highly doubt anyone but some media outlets and a few fans would freak out.

    Beltran is not at 85 percent now; that’s the problem. That 85 percent may be his new ceiling, but his bat is way behind at this point.

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