Field narrows in Beltran sweepstakes

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is narrowing the field on possible destinations for outfielder Carlos Beltran(notes), sources said Wednesday.

By Wednesday evening, the day after Alderson provided him with a short list of interested teams he believed could fulfill the Mets’ wishes and provide Beltran another shot at the postseason, Beltran had not ruled out any of those clubs, believed to be the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee Brewers and, perhaps, the New York Yankees.

Beltran, the 34-year-old switch-hitter, is batting .293 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs in his walk year. Scouts from the Phillies and other clubs attended Wednesday’s game at Citi Field, where Beltran homered and drove in two runs.

Carlos Beltran hit a two-run home run Wednesday against St. Louis, his 15th homer of the season.

While many teams in need of an outfielder also have an eye on the likes of Hunter Pence(notes), Josh Willingham(notes), Ryan Ludwick(notes), Jeff Francoeur(notes), Michael Cuddyer(notes), Michael Bourn(notes) and Melky Cabrera(notes), Beltran – because he hits with power from both sides, has been especially effective against right-handed pitching, and can be had for either prospects or salary (about $6 million) – has generated the most interest. The approaching non-waiver trade deadline seems otherwise long on relief pitcher and mediocre bats.

Beltran is willing to waive his no-trade protection for the right team in the right situation. Those close to Beltran say his knees feel as good as they have in years and that he is capable of playing center field. If prospective teams accept that, Beltran would be even more valuable. And, if you’re Alderson, you’d be inclined to move Beltran as soon as possible, or before he proves otherwise. Some baseball insiders expect Beltran to be traded well before the July 31 deadline.

Possible destinations include:

Philadelphia: GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is searching for a corner outfielder, preferably right field, leaving Raul Ibanez(notes) in left and Shane Victorino(notes) in center. The Phillies have a left-leaning lineup, so are seeking balance as well as a second-half lift to an offense that’s been average so far.

Boston: The Red Sox have a slight problem in right field, where J.D. Drew(notes) is batting .223 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 77 games. As reported, GM Theo Epstein has grown protective of his farm system since the trade for Adrian Gonzalez(notes), and the Red Sox also have needs in the starting rotation and bullpen. If they prioritize the pitching staff, the Red Sox could be outbid for Beltran.

Atlanta: Jason Heyward’s(notes) sophomore season has proved to be a bit of a struggle, particularly against left-handed pitching. While waiting on Chipper Jones(notes) to return from knee surgery (and Martin Prado’s(notes) subsequent return to left field), the Braves’ outfield has been manned by three of Eric Hinske(notes), Nate McLouth(notes), Jordan Schafer(notes) and Heyward. GM Frank Wren probably would like to add at least a right-handed-hitting platoon element for Heyward, if not a full-time outfielder.

San Francisco: GM Brian Sabean added a useful hitter in infielder Jeff Keppinger(notes), but Keppinger won’t solve all of the Giants’ offensive issues. Sabean implied to Bay Area papers this week he will not part with upper-tier prospects such as Brandon Belt(notes) and Zack Wheeler. He still ought to be able to work a deal. The Giants rank near the bottom of the NL in runs, home runs and on-base percentage, so he almost has to if he wants to ease the torture.

Milwaukee: The Brewers made the first deadline move by acquiring reliever Francisco Rodriguez, so Doug Melvin and Alderson are already acquainted. Melvin said recently he had nothing imminent on the trade front, but has proven in the past to be an aggressive player come July. With Ryan Braun(notes) back in left, the Brewers could use Beltran in center (though Nyjer Morgan(notes) is hitting) or right (where Corey Hart(notes) has been spotty).

New York: The Yankees aren’t getting much production from their DH’s, so could engage the Mets in a rare intra-city swap. The Mets are in no position to sweat the potential public relations issues that could arise with Beltran in the Bronx, if that’s where the best trade lies.

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