Sandy Alderson had to be mindful of Carlos Beltran's ability to veto any trade, and working within those guidelines, the Mets' general manager finally agreed on one yesterday. It will send Beltran to the Giants for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, according to two people familiar with the situation. In addition, the Mets will pay $4 million of the roughly $6 million left on Beltran's contract this season.
Beltran never flat-out said exactly where he wanted to spend the rest of this season, if it couldn't be with the Mets. But as Sunday's trade deadline approached, the six-time All-Star dropped plenty of hints. In listing his demands last week, the defending world champions emerged as his contender of choice.
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"You want to be on a team where they have a good pitching staff," Beltran said. "Look at what happened last year with San Francisco. They didn't have the biggest bats, but they had the best pitching."
The Mets planned to officially announce the trade Thursday, because Beltran had 24 hours to approve the deal. That delay was merely procedural, considering the Giants meet all of his stated criteria: a National League contender with an elite pitching staff.
Beltran did not show up Wednesday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and likely was headed to Philadelphia, where he is expected to play rightfield and bat third for the Giants Thursday. The Mets declined to say the trade was complete.
"While we have been engaged in discussions, we are not in a position to comment at this time," the Mets said in a statement. "As soon as we have something definitive to announce, we will do so."
Trading Beltran became a priority for Alderson shortly after the All-Star break, when the GM determined it was no longer in the Mets' best interests to keep him for their fading playoff hopes. Alderson also mulled potential trades with the Phillies, Braves and Rangers. Beltran is near the end of his seven-year, $119-million contract, and Alderson told other teams he'd be willing to absorb most of the remaining money for a quality prospect in return.
That's what Alderson got in Wheeler, the Giants' first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2009 first-year player draft. The 21-year-old righthander was ranked 35th on Baseball America's midseason top prospect list. Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 88 innings at High-A San Jose.
Wheeler figures to be a good return for what is essentially a two-month rental for the Giants, who enhanced their odds of repeating. Beltran, 34, earned his sixth All-Star appearance this year -- perhaps the most surprising invite of his career, given his knee issues the past two years.
With the Mets finishing the first half in San Francisco, Beltran hitched a ride to Phoenix with the Giants' All-Star contingent, an interesting twist in hindsight. He is batting .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs, but his most remarkable statistic, to this point, was playing in 98 of the Mets' first 103 games.
"There's two different impacts," David Wright said. "The first impact is the offense took a shot. I think that, him being gone, guys are going to have to collectively come together and make up for what he's done this year. But I think, the big picture is there's a plan in place and the front office is sticking to that plan, and you can't doubt them."
With a full no-trade clause, in addition to 10-and-5 rights (10 years service time, five with one team) Beltran had final say. But even with that obstacle, Alderson appeared to swing a favorable deal for the Mets in his second significant trade this month.
On July 12, Alderson sent closer Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee. Both moves were done with an eye toward next season and beyond, but Beltran's departure is harder to digest now.
"You have to understand there's always two sides to everything and that by no means is this signaling that we're just going to play out the season," Wright said. "This is going to help us, maybe not in the immediate future but down the road."
With John Jeansonne in Cincinnati