Will the Mets stick with Carlos Beltran in center field?

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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.

Rays stadium project dead, team stuck in Tropicana Field until 2027

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LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.

Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project. Sternberg said just now that “we were not close to a workable framework.”

In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were  prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.

Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”