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Carlos Beltran Would Be Nice, But Unnecessary

Carlos Gomez broke his collarbone making a diving catch in Arizona on Wednesday night. At least for now, it looks like Brett Carroll will be getting the call from Triple A Nashville to take Gomez’s spot on the roster, as tweeted by his brother before the game was even over (God bless social media).

Despite the fact that Gomez was settled into a role as the lesser half of a platoon with Nyjer Morgan, the injury will likely only fuel speculation that the Brewers are interested in Carlos Beltran. The rumors started a few days ago when Jon Heyman tweeted a list of teams that had called about the outfielder, and at the time, they seemed out of place. If there was one spot on the team that didn’t need an upgrade, it was the outfield. With Gomez out for an extended period of time, perhaps that changes.

Even with the Gomez injury, I’m not sure I totally understand the interest. He’s still a dynamic hitter — probably the best hitter on the market this trade season. FanGraphs has him at 3.8 WAR so far this year. A move to right field has helped him keep his balky knees healthy to this point, and he’s been right around average defensively there in 2011.

A move to the Brewers — if he were even to accept one — would mean going back to centerfield, though, and that’s where I start to worry. While he’d be a clear offensive upgrade over Morgan, Beltran hasn’t been very good in center since 2008. Last year, he posted a UZR/150 of -7.5 after coming back from knee surgery, and the year before his UZR/150 was -6.0. It’s definitely possible those were just two bad years, but at age 34, he isn’t going to be a Gold Glove caliber defender anymore, either. The Mets have been able to keep Beltran healthy by having him play a less-demanding position, but if he were to play center full-time again, the risk of injury can’t be discounted. Considering what it would take to get Beltran in a trade, that could turn out to be a big risk.

Some of the speculation I’ve seen on Beltran seems to be based on the idea that if the Mets were willing to let Rodriguez go for peanuts, Beltran should be just as attainable, given the team’s financial problems. In reality, the two situations are entirely different. Rodriguez had to be traded, otherwise the team would very likely be on the hook for the vesting option that would be an albatross on next year’s payroll. That vesting option also put a dent in Rodriguez’s trade value. Beltran is a free agent-to-be without the same contract concerns. If there’s anything holding Beltran’s value down, it’s the $8+ million he’s still owed this year, but the Mets are willing to eat most/all of it if it means maximizing the returns.

That’s where my optimism for a Beltran trade fades. The Mets are billing him as the top bat on the market, and there are quite a few teams looking at him that have much more to offer (San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia, just to name a few). I’d ask if anyone is comfortable with giving up Mat Gamel and Wily Peralta for Beltran, but that might not even be enough.

In the end, trading for Beltran to replace Gomez (or even trading for him if Gomez was healthy) would be a move of luxury rather than necessity. The offensive upgrade would be nice, but the ongoing problems at shortstop and third base are more pressing needs. If Doug Melvin can find a way to get Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal/Jamey Carroll, great. More power to him. I would just hope he fixes the leaky faucet before he installs the jacuzzi.