Giants Prioritize Offense With Beltran

The biggest chip in the 2011 trading season has officially been moved. After weeks of rumors, the Giants pulled the trigger on a deal to bolster a struggling offense, acquiring Carlos Beltran from the Mets in exchange for prized pitching prospect Zach Wheeler. Beltran will infuse some life into an offense which enters Thursday’s play with an overall batting line of .241/.306/.360, worth an 82 wRC+ that sits dead last in the National League.

Playing in New York naturally brings high expectations, and, at least in the public eye, it seemed like Beltran failed to meet those expectations. Maybe those around the Mets just turned Beltran and his $119 million contract into a proxy for the team’s success, because Beltran’s performance warranted nothing but praise. His Mets only managed one playoff berth since his arrival in 2005 — his second season, when he posted a .275/.388/.594 line with 41 home runs, all while still playing one of the best defensive center fields in the majors. No, Beltran was hardly to blame for the failures of the franchise. Although he did miss time in both 2009 and 2010, Beltran accrued 31.5 Wins Above Replacement in his six-and-a-half seasons in Queens, sustaining an all-star level throughout his entire contract.

Beltran’s numbers from the first 100 games of 2011 are as gaudy as any he’s posted in his Mets career. He heads to San Francisco with a .289/.391/.513 line despite the power-sapping ways of Citi Field. Expecting him to maintain such production in San Francisco may be too much, as the deep right field wall will make sustaining power numbers from the left side difficult. Even still, Beltran is a good bet to maintain an on-base percentage at or above .370 with respectable power, making him easily the best hitter on the Giants right now with only Pablo Sandoval within shouting distance.

The Giants’ addition of Beltran should put the NL West title squarely in the bank for San Francisco, as they already hold a three-game lead over a flawed Arizona team. Beltran will replace Nate Schierholtz in right field. The 27-year-old right fielder has been serviceable so far, posting a 109 wRC+, but Beltran has been worth nearly three more wins this season and could be an upgrade of as much as two wins over the next 50 games and change remaining.

This trade really isn’t about the regular season for the Giants, though. As much as the Giants thrived on their pitching staff in the playoffs, the bats, particularly a major impact from Cody Ross, were a major force in their success as well. The Giants can’t expect to catch lightning in a bottle from mediocre players like Ross twice in a row, and if the Giants are going to beat the Phillies, Braves and whoever comes out of the NL Central battle to reach the World Series again, they’ll need more offense than they’ve shown so far.

Although one can certainly question how predictive it is, Beltran is no stranger to carrying a team through a postseason, as he almost singlehandedly produced enough offense to take the Houston Astros to the 2005 World Series, compiling an insane 20-for-46 line, including three doubles, eight homers, nine walks, and six stolen bases. Beltran was no slouch for New York in 2006, either, posting a .278/.422./.566 line in 10 games. His overall WPA for the postseason sits at +1.09 for 22 games, or just over +8.0 over a full 162 game season.

There is a lengthy debate to be had as to whether it was worth it for the Giants to deal such a prized prospect in Zach Wheeler, the organization’s second-best prospect according to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein, for a team that had exceedingly high playoff odds already, but that will be left for another post. Regardless of the cost, there is little doubt that this trade has made the Giants a far better team. Realistically, a player of Carlos Beltran’s caliber was necessary to make another World Series run possible, and Brian Sabean, albeit at great cost, has put the Giants in position to do just that.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

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11 years ago

Jack: It’s Zack. With a K.