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:
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.