Carlos Beltran

Mets hold firm, get best available prospect for Carlos Beltran

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UPDATE, 11:13 PM: Beltran has accepted the trade, which will be made official on Thursday morning.

3:30 PM: It’s not official yet — because Carlos Beltran has no-trade protection, he can’t be officially moved until 24 hours after the deal is agreed to — but all indications are that the Mets are sending their All-Star right fielder and cash to the Giants for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

And that’s a very good pickup for the Mets.  Wheeler isn’t one of the game’s top five pitching prospects, but he may be in the top 10 and he’s almost certainly in the top 15.  Pitching for Single-A San Jose in the high-offense California League, the sixth overall pick from the 2009 draft is 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA and a 98/47 K/BB ratio in 88 innings this season.  He’s struck out 168 batters and walked 85 in 146 2/3 innings as a pro.

Wheeler has an excellent delivery and does a better job of generating velocity with his legs than most.  His curveball rates as one of the best strikeout pitches in the minors.  ProjectProspect.com had a great scouting report on him from a couple of months ago, including some GIFs of his windup.

Considering that the Mets weren’t even going to get a draft pick or two if Beltran left as a free agent this winter, it’s a great return for them.  Wheeler probably won’t contribute until 2013, but he could be a top-of-the-rotation guy if things break right.

As for the Giants, they get the middle-of-the-order bat they believed they needed to help their chances of repeating this October.  The only problem there is that they’ve actually gotten more production from left field and right field than any other positions this year.  Here’s how their team OPS by position breaks down:

LF: .733
RF: .730
3B: .712
CF: .691
C: .687
1B: .676
2B: .669
SS: .599

To make room for Beltran, either Nate Schierholtz or Cody Ross is going to take a seat.  Schierholtz has a .764 OPS that ranks second on the team to Pablo Sandoval’s .834 mark.  Ross isn’t far behind at .746.  Both are also above average defenders in the outfield corners.

Really, though, it’s not such a big problem.  Ross has an .834 OPS against lefties, compared to a .720 mark versus righties.  Schierholtz has an .802 OPS against righties, as opposed to a .584 OPS versus lefties.  A straight platoon makes all kinds of sense, if manager Bruce Bochy is willing to reduce Ross’ role that significantly.  If Ross plays over Schierholtz against righties, then the Giants are probably hurting themselves.

But the Giants did need Beltran.  As long as he can stay healthy, the team is now in much better position to take down the Phillies in the postseason again.  A look at the new lineup:

CF Andres Torres
SS Mike Fontenot/2B Jeff Keppinger
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Carlos Beltran
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Nate Schierholtz/Cody Ross
2B Jeff Keppinger/SS Mike Fontenot, Miguel Tejada, Brandon Crawford
C Eli Whiteside

It’s still far from perfect.  Ideally, the Giants would still go get a catcher or a shortstop to replace Tejada on the roster.  It’s much improved, though.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.