Why Steve Phillips is Right About Beltran

steve-phillips-metsSo much to-do over a few little comments by Steve Phillips

Yes, I also watched the game last night on ESPN, and for part of the time did not use the mute button. Yes, I agree that Joe Morgan, Steve Phillips, and Jon Miller are not the best broadcast team. No, I don’t understand anything Morgan says. Yes, I disagree with 99% of what Phillips says.

But one thing I do agree with Phillips on, sort of, is the Carlos Beltran issue. If I were the Mets GM, I would absolutely consider trading Carlos Beltran at the end of this season. Not because he’s lacking edge (even if he is) or clutchness (ditto), not because he’s imperfect (aren’t we all?), not because he lacks leadership skills (there are at least 20 other Mets guilty of the same), and not because he’s an airhead (he is, you just don’t notice it when he’s hitting .400). Rather, following are my reasons why it would make sense to explore the possibility of dealing Beltran next winter.


If Beltran continues hitting the way he’s hitting now through September, or at least finishes the year with “MVP-like” numbers, then his value will be at a level that most likely will never again be higher. Is it possible that he’ll have at least one more “MVP” year after 2009? Sure. It there a good chance he’ll have more than one such year? No. He’s 32 this year, will be 33 shortly after Opening Day 2010. Without PEDs, ballplayers simply do not have career years in their mid-30s. I’m willing to bet that Beltran will not be worth the $18.5M he’ll receive in 2010 and 2011. More importantly, after an MVP-type season, being a switch-hitting, Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder, and having two (rather than one) years left on his contract, Beltran should be able to fetch a significant package of good young prospects that are close to MLB ready or already in MLB.


As already mentioned, Beltran is 32 years old now. Ages 33 and 34 may not necessarily be down years, but he has been through a number of leg injuries and surgeries. We need only look back to former Mets such as Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo to see how quickly great players can break down once they get into their early 30s. Beltran plays a position that takes a lot of wear and tear as it is — a young man’s position. Before he turned 30, he was having problems with his knees and his quads, so why would we expect those issues to disappear as he ages? For years, the Mets have been criticized for fielding an “old” team, and the “other” New York team is an excellent example of what can happen if you retain aging ballplayers at skill positions (i.e., C, SS, CF).


If the Mets fail to make the postseason yet again, and Beltran has a phenomenal year, then what’s the point of keeping him? To miss the playoffs three straight years, with all the money spent on supposedly top-notch talent, would indicate that it’s time for the team to change direction. Carlos Delgado’s contract is up at the end of this year, and it’s hard to imagine the Mets re-signing him. Both Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro will be gone, so the catching position will be wide open. Gary Sheffield will be gone. Meantime, the minor league system offers next to nothing in the way of Major League talent — outside of possibly Fernando Martinez. The Mets will need at minimum a catcher and a first baseman, and the free agents available will be Bengie Molina and Adam LaRoche. They can go one of two ways: a.) continue with the plan of “patch up with aging veterans and hope it’ll be enough to get us to the postseason”; or b.) trade away one or more of the more valuable, but not so youthful, commodities, to bring back young talent. You have to give up something to get something, and Beltran might be the key to getting a lot of good somethings.

This Doesn’t Mean I WANT TO Trade Beltran

Don’t misconstrue — I’m not looking for ways to jettison arguably the best centerfielder in the game today. However, from a GM’s perspective, I can definitely see why it would make sense for the Mets to explore the possibilities. Certainly, I would not give away Beltran for less than the type of package that was dealt to Minnesota for Johan Santana. Absolutely, I’d want to get at least one good to excellent young catcher or centerfielder back — someone like a Russell Martin, a Dioner Navarro, a Nate McLouth, a Nick Markakis, a Jacoby Ellsbury — or an ace-like, established arm (i.e., Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, Brandon Webb). It might also be worth considering a package of a few young MLB fill-ins and sure-fire prospects — for example, a deal with Baltimore that would bring back Felix Pie (or Adam Jones), Matt Wieters, and one of their highly touted young pitchers. Mind you, none of these mentioned players are likely available in ANY deal, but I throw them out there as examples of the type of talent I’d expect to receive if Beltran were traded. And, it’s quite possible that type of talent wouldn’t be available for Beltran — in which case, you keep him.

The Beltran situation is a lot like that memorable Steve Phillips trade of 2001 — the one that brought Roberto Alomar to New York. Looking back on it now, Alomar was a bust, and none of the prospects sent to Cleveland panned out. But, at the time, it made a lot of sense for Cleveland, and is similar to what we’re discussing. Alomar was coming off a career year — an MVP-type year, in fact — but he was 33 years old and had a history of nagging, but non-debilitating, injuries. There was no reason to believe he’d drop off as much as he did, and so quickly, so from the Mets’ perspective, it was a good deal (at the time). Further, though the Indians finished in first place in 2001, they were an aging ballclub that realized it was time to make a transition. In addition to Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton exited that winter, and a year later, Bartolo Colon and Jim Thome were gone as well. (Colon, by the way, was swapped for Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Cliff Lee — one example of how selling high can benefit a team in the long run.)

I can’t say Carlos Beltran is what’s keeping the Mets from winning a World Championship. I won’t say the Mets are a better team without him. And I don’t necessarily buy into the “blow up the core” theory. But I will say that, if there’s a deal that can improve the Mets organization for the present and the future, and it would have to include saying goodbye to Carlos Beltran, then it would be silly not to consider it.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. tthai May 18, 2009 at 6:23 pm
    That’s a bold idea. If I’m not wrong he has a no trade clause? or was the no clause thing the reason he rejected the Astro’s deal. Or both ?
  2. mr.bmc May 18, 2009 at 6:27 pm
    Moving Beltran in the off-season – if he waives his no-trade clause – makes a lot of sense. Branch Rickey always said, “Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.”

    Be that as it may – your defense of Steve Phillips is indefensible. He didn’t make anything resembling the coherent rational argument you did. He’s a stooge; and you backed him up.

  3. mr.bmc May 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm
    I don’t understand why you cited the Almoar trade… Phillips got the fuzzy end of the lollipop there.


  4. Dave Doyle May 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm
    Joe, Good post. I was thinking the same thing. But I thought that Beltran’s contract becomes very palatable for teams after this season with only 2 years left. Of course, Beltran would have to approve a trade but he’ll be more likely to when Delgado is gone next season. I wouldn’t trade him just to trade him, but trading him for a pitcher or first baseman and putting Fernando Martinez in center and signing Matt Holliday to play left would nicely reconfigure the team without “rebuilding”.
  5. joe May 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm
    tthai – the no-trade is a factor I didn’t consider. But then, I’m playing “fantasy” GM so I don’t have to worry about those details. 😉 Seriously though, yes he does have a no-trade but if the Mets fail again, and Beltran gets more spotlight than he desires, he may be happy to waive the clause. And of course, there are other ways to convince him (i.e., contract extension).

    mr. bmc – does that make me Curly, Larry, or Moe? Phillips made such an idiot of himself last night, I felt it my duty to help him out. I prefer to be the guy pulling the idiot out from under the pile, rather than one of the punks piling on top of him.

    For the record, I’ve never enjoyed a fuzzy lollipop.

    Dave – thanks, and good point on the years left … though, $37M is nothing to sneeze at in this economy. I imagine it would have to be a big-city team like LA, Boston, Chicago, or NY taking on the contract. Or a repeat of insanity by Tom Hicks or Peter Angelos.

    Can F-Mart play CF?

  6. isuzudude May 18, 2009 at 7:35 pm
    Steve Phillips says a lot of stupid things, and did a lot of stupid things when he was the GM with the Mets. He probably has sour grapes against the organization that fired him and may be looking to take pop shots at the Mets every chance he gets. And to be frank, it’s the “in-thing” to do these days to dump on the Mets; just ask Bob Klapisch, Mike Francesa, and all the “experts” who predicted the Mets wouldn’t make the postseason this year even with the NL’s highest payroll.

    That said, that doesn’t mean that anything and everything Phillips’ has to say about the Mets is going to be slanderous and misinformed. And though I disagree with his leadership comments, and strongly disagree that the team’s best players must be traded if they fail to make the postseason, he is mostly right about Beltran. And I think of Beltran much the same way as I think of Arod. They are both staples at the all-star game, they both put up ridiculous seasonal statistics, they both have all 5 tools, and they both will undoubtedly recieve HOF consideration. Yet Arod is known as a choker, a “me-first” player, a guy who can’t always be counted on when the game matters, a guy who will make mental mistakes and miscues at the worst possible times. And any OBJECTIVE Mets fan can see those same qualities in Beltran. And though his BAbip, oWN%, ISO, QXYZLMNOP – or whatever zany stat you want to conjer up – may be out of this world, eyewitness accounts of Beltran watching a called strike 3 to end a big game, booting outfield grounders to allow runners to advance in key situations, inexplicably failing to slide on the basepaths, and trying to steal 3rd base in insignificant or detrimental situations can be found. By no stretch of the imagination is or should Beltran be perfect, but by reading some of the disputes to Phillip’s criticisms, some Beltran defenders would have you believe he’s done everything in baseball but walk on water.

    To me, I see Phillips’ major point in being that Beltran is a very nice player, but he’s not the guy the Mets should be banking on to carry them to the World Series. And that is a very valid argument. Beltran just lacks a certain “it” factor, and those who have followed baseball long enough know what I mean. And in 4 seasons with the Mets thus far, Beltran has yet to prove otherwise. Nothing that Phillips’ had to say last night was really wrong, I think it’s just tough to hear those words coming from a guy like him.

    I hadn’t thought about trading Beltran, though you make an excellent arguement to do so, Joe. As long as he gets his money, I don’t see Beltran putting up much of a fight if traded, as long as it’s not to Washington or Kansas City. I’m more annoyed at Reyes, however, than anyone else, and see him more as the centerpiece for the Mets’ lack of focus and proper motivation over the past 2+ years, and hence have him at the top of my “must-go” list if the Mets continue to stage late season collapses. I seriously doubt Omar would consider trading either Reyes or Beltran, though, despite how much sense it might make to trade either one. So perhaps to get a major change of scenery around here we might have to start at the top and work our way down.

  7. mic May 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm
    you have been sucked in….sucker.

    steve phillips is merely a journalism whose trade is based on bygone years in which a blank check mentality rather than stragic organizational plan was the mets business plan.

    just like u are playing barber ship gm…so is (begrudgingly) sp….in fact your opinion is of as much value as his…………further sp was a drug addict…addicted to the mega trade….which if you notice IS NO LONGER a mantra of the mets. When WAS the last time the mets traded a core player…or even top prospect!degado trade maybe?

    While i dont disagree with your arguement i am not THAT enthused by trading a .300/30+hr/120rbi guy who plays gg defense. however as f-mart ascends i am at least amenable. but please not (ala sp) for the sake of headlines!!! now if theo comes calling and says you can have ellsbury AND buchholz…lets talk.

    however i am alot more amenable to a reyes trade…especially with jeff marte, ruben tejada and wilmer flores in the future.

    consider: the bosox traded away hanley for josh beckett…..(why is that not more critiqued?) would they trade for reyes?

  8. Eli From Brooklyn May 19, 2009 at 2:06 am
    Exactly what I said. Wink.
  9. isuzudude May 19, 2009 at 10:19 am
    Mic: the whole point to Joe’s argument to trade Beltran is based on the idea that he may not be a .300/30/120 (though he hasn’t hit .300 in any full season thus far with the Mets) much beyond his 32nd birthday. Historical evidence of players not on PEDs shows that players tend to start declining in production and talent in their mid-30s. When this season is over, and if Beltran continues 2009 at his current pace, his trade value will be off the charts. Knowing that he is likely to start showing signs of age, while still making $37-mil thru 2011, wouldn’t it be the perfect time to deal Beltran after this season for a couple top prospects, or a studdly starting pitcher? Trading him would not be for headlines, it would be for success, and it makes a ton of sense.

    Also, you would not consider the Johan deal a “megatrade?” Carlos Gomez was a top prospect when dealt, was he not? Also, how about the JJ Putz deal? Mike Carp and Joe Smith were pretty high on a lot of Mets fans’ lists, not to mention Heilman was a “core” player from 2005 to 2007. Are you not paying any attention to recent events?

    Boston gets little criticism for the Hanley-for-Beckett trade because they’ve won a world series and gotten to the playoffs 3 out of 4 seasons since that trade. Not to mention, even though Hanley was turned out to be a great player, the Red Sox got a pretty good player in return. It’s not like they traded Heath Bell for Jon Adkins – oh wait, that was Omar “I don’t trade away top prospects” Minaya.

  10. mic May 20, 2009 at 10:23 pm
  11. joe May 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm
    Oh boy, EVERYONE is piling on the idiocy of Steve Phillips. Guess it’s time for me to defend him. Always for the underdog and the abused, I am.

    Tell me again, my friends — who was the GM the last time the Mets went to the World Series?

    OK, have to admit that Phillips was simply damn lucky to have one of the greatest managers of the modern era sitting in the dugout in 2000. And it WAS Phillips who fired the best manager ever to serve in Flushing in the 21st century. I’m grasping at straws here … geez Steve you ARE an idiot!