New manager Terry Collins made it clear yesterday that Carlos Beltran enter camps as the Mets’ starting center fielder, saying: “When he walks in the first day, he’s the center fielder.”
However, that comes with a significant caveat, as the plan is to evaluate Beltran’s range and surgically repaired knee before determining whether he’s a better center field option than Angel Pagan. One of them will be starting in center field and the other will be manning right field, so it’s not as much a competition as an evaluation of who offers the most range in the middle of the outfield.
Here’s more from Collins:
We’re going to sit down and feel out Carlos and make sure we come up with a game plan. But when he comes in here, if he says, “Look, I think I’m healthy enough to play center field,” then we’re going to put him out there and make an adjustment as we go.
Even without factoring in knee surgery and the time he’s missed Beltran is 33 years old and plenty of previously outstanding defensive center fielders cease being assets there at that age. Pagan is 29 and proved last season that he’s a very strong defender in center field while filling in for Beltran, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 11.8 runs above average in 792 innings.
If the Mets are looking to put their best defense on the field that likely won’t involve Beltran in center and that may also be best for his chances of staying healthy.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2010 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.