Mmm, take a whiff. Can you smell that? It’s a hitter. No, not a prototypical average hitter who the Giants like to claim as an offensive force *cough* Aubrey Huff *cough, a real life, honest to god slugger.
Don’t think so? Then take this into account. The only outfielder with a higher OPS+ than Beltran to be traded mid-year since 1980 was Gary Sheffield when he went from the Marlins to the Dodgers in 1998. Even more impressive? In that same time period, there have been 1,371 outfielder seasons that qualified for the batting title. When ranked by OPS+, Beltran’s mark ranks 99th out of them all. Despite your feelings on the trade, the evidence is there – Carlos Beltran is having an elite offensive season and players who have the type of numbers he currently does are almost never available at the deadline. For the Giants not only to snag him but to take him out of your direct competitions grasp? Short term, it’s fantastic.
But now we begin to look at the long term possibilities, mostly centered around now traded pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. For what Wheeler is, a high-A ball prospect, he’s very good. But he still just a high-A ball prospect. That’s not meant to bash or bring down Wheeler in any sense, but you’re moving an unknown for a proven commodity. Sometimes that works out great and other times not so much, but in fairness to the Giants front office they do have a track record of trading away higher touted pitching prospects who end up fizzing out. Do I think Wheeler will fall victim to same fate as say a Tim Alderson, the centerpiece of the Freddy Sanchez deal? No – but assuming Wheeler was to be a front line starter was extremely premature despite his prestigious prospect ranking. It wasn’t that long ago that many felt the Pirates delivered a coup at the hands of Sabean when they acquired Tim Alderson who was the #4 prospect in the Giants system (#26 in MLB at the time per Keith Law) and now he’s stuck in the Pirates AA bullpen. Pitching prospects, especially starting, fail at a much higher rate than any other position.
Wheeler was/is at least two years away from ever making a splash at the MLB level, and that’s assuming he reaches it – not to say he can’t, he’s very talented, but a prospect is just that. Make no mistake – the Giants didn’t trade away a franchise pitching cornerstone. If I’m the Mets – of course I’m excited to get a young arm with significant potential. The Amazin’s weren’t making the playoffs and getting anything of any value for Beltran, especially given his non-arbitration clause is great for them. But the Giants have a team ready to compete at a World Series level right now. This moment. Chances are their window will remain open for at worst a few more years as well, possibly much longer assuming stars stay and health cooperates. To not take advantage of that would be moronic. Beltran, as mentioned above, is having one of the best seasons ever for a player to be traded mid-year – not only did the Giants pick up that addition but they kept it out of the hands of the enemies and now have the opportunity to bring Beltran back if they so choose (or should I say, if the price is right for Boras…).
Finding fault with the trade for the current moment is nearly impossible – looking down the road, it’s all going to depend on Wheeler’s progress. If he becomes a #2 or #3 starter at the big league level and the Giants fail in the playoffs during Beltran’s tenure (however long that might be), we can Monday morning quarterback the move in 2015. But for now, the Giants picked up an elite hitter, a very solid defensive outfielder and prevented their foes from snagging the best available player at the deadline.
As Weezy would say – you’re fucking welcome.