Carlos Beltran’s season with the St. Louis Cardinals isn’t even over yet, but already there is speculation regarding where the free agent to be will end up next season. There have been several teams named as possible suitors, but naturally there are plenty of rumors that suggest Beltran could return to the New York Mets.
There was some unpleasantness between Beltran and the Mets towards the end of his tenure there before he was traded for young ace Zack Wheeler during the 2011 season. However, Beltran’s beef was with the previous front office and not with Sandy Alderson, and he seems to have patched things up with Mets’ ownership. So if nothing else, his history with the organization won’t be a hindrance to Beltran returning to the Mets.
Beltran would seem to fit what the Mets need. He’s a corner outfielder that will provide plenty of power after hitting 24 home runs during the 2013 regular season. He’s also a switch hitter that is productive from both sides of the plate, so the Mets wouldn’t have to worry about finding a platoon partner for him.
However, bringing Beltran back would carry plenty of risk for the Mets. Although he managed to play in 145 games in 2013 and has now played in over 140 games each of the past three seasons, the Mets are well aware of his past issues with injuries, which would be a concern if they signed him, especially to a multi-year deal. Also a factor is the fact that Beltran will be 37 years old next year. Even though it’s impossible to know when there will be a significant drop off in his numbers, he’s getting to the age when it could happen at any time.
The other issue is that Beltran is no longer the Gold Glove caliber outfielder he was when he was previously with the Mets. His bad knees may not have had a significant impact on his hitting, but they’ve caused his range in the outfield to noticeably decrease. The Mets are built to succeed next year based on their pitching, and the best way to support their pitchers is to put quality defensive players on the field behind them. There’s certainly a chance putting Beltran in the outfield every day could compromise that.
The Mets should definitely consider signing Beltran this offseason, especially since Beltran seems open to reunion with his former team as well. However, it’s important to keep in mind that bringing Beltran back to New York carries some risks, and the Mets need to be aware of those risks.
Of course, if the Mets are going to take a big step forward and become competitive, they’re going to have to take a risk at some point. We know they didn’t do that with their manager, so perhaps they’ll do so with Beltran.