COMMENTARY | The trials and tribulations of the New York Mets' outfield has been well-documented. Looking ahead to 2014, who could Sandy Alderson target in the free agent market? The salaries of Johan Santana and Jason Bay are coming off the books, giving New York more financial flexibility. While some want the Mets to go after Shin Soo-Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran should be given heavy consideration.
With the emergence of outfield talent the Mets currently have in the minors, they may not want to block their route to the major leagues. Cesar Puello and Cory Vaughn are both hitting well for the Double-A Binghamton Mets and are deserving of promotions. Brandon Nimmo got off to a hot start for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats before he was put on the disabled list.
It wouldn't be surprising to see both Puello and Vaughn eventually get a taste of the major leagues as early as this September. The best solution this winter for the outfield could be a player to be a starter for one or two years before these prospects are considered ready. That's what Carlos Beltran can offer the New York Mets.
Beltran is in his second season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the last of a two-year/$26 million deal he signed prior to the 2012 season. Now that he's playing right field every day, he's been able to stay healthy and remain productive. Through 42 games and 154 at-bats in 2013, he's hitting .292/.327/.519 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs.
He's expressed an interest in staying with St. Louis beyond this season, but that remains to be seen. Matt Holliday and John Jay are locks in the outfield moving forward, and top prospect Oscar Tavares is waiting patiently in Triple-A. While his performance is good enough to stick around, the Cardinals may decide to take a different direction, leaving Beltran needing a job for 2014.
Making a case for Beltran is not saying Choo or Ellsbury wouldn't be a fit for the Mets. Either one of these players would be exactly what New York needs to improve the outfield. Choo would provide the power from a corner outfield spot. Ellsbury would give the Mets a proven leadoff hitter with speed who can play center field.
If these players provide what the Mets need, then why not go after them? There are two reasons why I wouldn't mind if Alderson stayed away from them: they'll both be in their 30s by the time the 2014 season starts, and they're both Scott Boras clients.
Sandy Alderson has made it known he's in favor of payroll flexibility and young, controllable players on the roster. Choo and Ellsbury will be looking for huge contracts based off of what they accomplished in past years, not what they're expected to contribute in the future. Alderson is not a fan of handing out "second-generation" long-term contracts. David Wright will probably be the only exception to that rule.
While it could be said the Mets will need three new outfielders next season, I'm going to assume that Lucas Duda will continue to hang around. That would leave New York on the hunt for at least two proven everyday outfielders. Beltran would provide a veteran presence to mentor prospects like Puello and Vaughn. He also would give New York a switch-hitter with some power, who is quite familiar with the dimensions of Citi Field.
Last, but certainly not least, Beltran knows what to expect from a big market like New York City since he spent six-and-a-half years with the Mets before heading to St. Louis.
It's way too early for us to know what Sandy Alderson's plan is for this upcoming winter. However, if Carlos Beltran is available, he may be the short-term solution the Mets could be in search of.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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