By Mike Steffanos
I haven't been able to post for a while, so I'd like to belatedly chime in on the Carlos Beltran trade.
I've always been a fan of Carlos, and I was sorry to see him go last week. Not only will I miss watching him play, but I can't believe (almost) seven years have gone by that quickly.
Most evaluators see the trade of Beltran for high-ceiling pitching prospect Zack Wheeler as a win for Sandy Alderson and company. Some fans are disgruntled by what they see as management waving the white flag on a season where the Mets still lurk on the fringes of the playoff race. They were playing very well until they stumbled over the last 4 games.
There is truth in both perspectives. Wheeler was a nice get, even though he is probably 2-3 years away from any real contribution to the big league club. Given the Mets wouldn't have received any draft pick compensation for Beltran after the season, this was a big deal.
On the other hand, no matter how you might spin it, dealing Carlos was a big offensive downgrade and a blow to their admittedly small chance of living on into October.
I don't think their pitching staff was even remotely good enough to enable them to go on a real hot streak and climb into real contention, but you can never discount the possibility of a playoff run. It would have been a low percentage longshot, but it's happened before. I understand the disappointment, which to some extent I share. They've been a fun team to root for this season, even if they are quite imperfect.
My personal take, though, is that Alderson did the right thing. The Mets system lacks much high ceiling talent, so Sandy has to value an opportunity to acquire some very highly right now. There's no guarantee that Wheeler will pan out, as prospects are always a roll of the dice. Still, I like the high reward that Wheeler's potential represents.
It seems to me that, given the aggressive drafting of high school talent in the amateur draft, Alderson and his lieutenants are playing the long game. This is not an approach that has been prevalent here over the last twenty years, and I'm happy to see it. It's getting more difficult and more expensive to obtain star players on the market. The Mets need to figure out how to develop some of their own.
Having said that, I'm still definitely not in agreement with those who would trade away every asset of value (Wright, Reyes, etc.) in order to stockpile prospects. I'm sorry, but I've spent too many years of my life watching absolutely terrible Mets teams stumble through 90+ loss seasons, and I have no desire to go back there.
If the Mets were a small market team that would probably be their only option in order to eventually build a championship squad, but there is no reason why a large market team couldn't put a watchable team on the field and restock talent at the same time. The Mets might have the most highly paid front office in baseball right now, and all of those high-priced brains should be able to accomplish what Boston was able to do in the past decade without the major league team heading completely in the crapper.
If Alderson sees an opportunity to keep Jose Reyes here past this season on terms that wouldn't kill the Mets' future, then I am in favor of that. I'd like to see Reyes stay a Met, and I trust Alderson to be disciplined enough to not get caught up in any kind of crazy bidding war on Reyes if another team decides to abandon all sanity in an attempt to sign him.
Sure, there will be some I told you so's if the Mets attempt to re-sign Reyes and come up short, but the Red Sox have done pretty well with compensation picks when they are unable to re-sign one of their players.
There are those who are convinced there was a mega-prospect deal out there for two months of Reyes. Maybe they're right, but the Giants would have been one of the strongest potential trade partners for Reyes, too, and that might have cost the Mets a good return for Beltran. We'll never truly know, and I'm not going to obsess over such things.
I know some folks are convinced that the prospects received in potential deals for Reyes and possibly David Wright would be the cornerstones of a Mets championship team down the road. If you feel that way you might want to read this piece on Baseball America's web site. They have a list of all of the prospects received in deadline deals from 2001 - 2010. Check it out, you won't see many impact major leaguers in that list.
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the Mets developing some home-grown stars. They need to be much more aggressive in pursuit of talent. I just don't want to spend the next 3-5 years watching them try to develop players who are unlikely to achieve the level of success that Reyes and Wright already have. I expect a much more nuanced and intelligent plan from that pricey front office brain trust.
My personal preference would be keeping Wright and Reyes as the cornerstones of the Mets for the next several years while continuing to aggressively pursue high-celling talent for the farm system. I don't believe that a decent, watchable club in the short term and a real championship contender in the long term should be mutually exclusive.