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Who Wants Carlos Beltran?

Carlos Beltran
Just minutes after the National League defeated the American League 5-1 (did the AL get the memo that THIS ONE COUNTS?!), the Brewers and Mets announced a trade. Milwaukee more or less took Francisco Rodriguez out of New York's hands. The official price is a couple players to be named later, but in reality, the Brewers simply agreed to pay K-Rod no matter what, and the cash-strapped Mets said, "sure."

Of course, it's not quite that simple. The Brewers are in win-now mode. There is no way that they can hold on to everyone they have right now, particularly both Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke. Their window of opportunity is now, and they are operating accordingly. Maybe taking on Rodriguez's salary blows the budget, but the 2011 Brewers are a team worth blowing the budget on.

There is an added danger with K-Rod, which should not manifest as long as he stays the set-up guy for John Axford. If Rodriguez finishes 21 more games this season (which he easily would as a closer), a $17.5 million option for 2012 kicks in. Obviously, the Mets did not want to pay that money, and now know that they won't have to. I highly doubt the Brewers want to either. Everything works fine as long as K-Rod pitches the eighth inning from here on out. It's not much of a risk, but still - $17.5 million!*

*Well, more like $14 million. K-Rod gets a $3.5 million buyout if the option doesn't vest. Still, $14 million!

It is very clear that the Mets need to clear some salary at this point. A Francisco Rodriguez trade could make sound baseball sense, but with such a small return on him in this deal, why didn't they wait until closer to the deadline to see if a better offer emerged? It looks pretty clear that the Mets are highly motivated to get rid of salaries. That's the only way this really makes sense.

On to the real subject of this post now, Carlos Beltran.

Another New York Met with a fatty contract, Beltran seems to be an obvious trade target. In fact, he might be more marketable than Rodriguez. While his salary is bigger ($18.5 million to Rodriguez's $11.5 million), there is no option at all next year that could potentially vest. Plus, Beltran is simply a better player, and is capable of filling a larger role on a ballclub - starting outfielder versus set-up reliever.

The only real reason I want to take up so many words talking about Beltran is because he is a nice fit for the Mariners. He could play left field, and instantly add a presence to the heart of the lineup. If the M's hadn't just been swept in Los Angeles of Anaheim, he would look even more attractive. As it stands, a rent-a-player doesn't look too appealing...

...unless that rent-a-player comes free of charge. I wonder how cheap the Mets are willing to go, if a team absorbs all of a big contract. They just handed K-Rod to the Brewers. Would they simply hand Beltran over in similar fashion?

My gut says no. The K-Rod trade should give them significant financial relief, enough to shop Carlos Beltran around with a guarantee that they pick up some of the price tag. That should make him more marketable, which in turn should allow them to secure some sort of talent in some sort of bidding war. Additionally, Beltran has a full no trade clause, and I'd presume that he would be most interested in a trade that ships him to a strong playoff contender. In other words, someone in the National League, since they apparently were the ones that understood THIS ALL STAR GAME COUNTED.

So, I guess I could have summed this post up in one sentence. Carlos Beltran won't come to Seattle. It makes no sense. It probably never did.

On a more general level, while the K-Rod deal signals the financial turmoil the Mets are in, it probably gives them better leverage with Carlos Beltran at the deadline. One of the two probably had to go, and New York held on to the better trade chip. I don't think it is a given that Beltran gets traded, though it is probably fairly certain. Somebody will have to step to the plate with the right deal, but that might not be all that hard to put together. Still, that's different than giving a player away.