Stadiums across the country resounded with the deafening cheering of fans as the Major League Baseball playoffs began, while Citi Field remained conspicuously quiet.
New York Mets fans are waiting for the moment when the calendar hits October and they can stream into Citi Field with the excitement and attitude that matches the team they’re rooting for.
Now, seven seasons removed from their last playoff appearance, and three from the beginning of the Sandy Alderson rebuilding project, the Mets must take the next step.
Alderson must navigate the treacherous free agent and trade markets this off-season to supplement the team’s young talent. Alderson’s first move should be to reunite with a familiar face, who seems willing to make a triumphant return.
Carlos Beltran, the 37-year-old former Mets all-star, may be signing his last MLB contract this off-season. So it’s time for the great Beltran to return home.
He was traded by Alderson to the Giants for starting pitcher Zack Wheeler during the 2011 season.
Speaking to the media two weeks ago, Beltran seemed willing to put aside past rifts with Mets management. He is still playing at an all-star level, and the outfielder is the perfect fit to patrol right field for the Mets next season.
Beltran is the most under-appreciated players in recent Mets history, making the all-star team five times with the team and winning three Silver Slugger awards, which recognizes outstanding hitters, during his tenure in New York. He is also one of the best playoff performers in MLB history, posting the best on-base percentage and slugging percentage among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, edging out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in both categories.
While Beltran has a sterling history, don’t confuse this signing with a courtesy to his legacy. He will still be expected to hit at an all-star caliber level.
The Mets most urgent need for the 2014 season is to bolster their offense that ranked 7th worst in MLB during the 2013 season.
Signing Beltran would be an excellent first step to improve the offenses paltry showing from the 2013 season. Even at 37, with bad knees, Beltran has produced consistently at the plate. Beltran has made the National League all-star team each of the past three seasons, while with the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals because of his success at the plate. He has hit for power, averaging 26 home runs, has reached base at a high rate, and posted a .356 on-base percentage over that same time period.
Beltran would provide more than just lineup depth to the inexperienced Mets outfield. He would also serve as a mentor to the team's young outfielders Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker and others in a similar way he did with former Mets’ outfielder Angel Pagan.
“He’s the kind of player and person I want to be on and off the field,” Pagan told the Daily News in 2012. “I used to watch everything he did: how he stretched, everything he did before a game, his whole routine.”
Critics of signing Beltran do have some arguments.
Now in his upper 30s, Beltran will likely need more rest than an average player and is prone to injury. Additionally, his surgically repaired knees make the former three-time Gold Glover a liability on defense.
However, both of these areas of concern have mitigating factors. His defensive play would be aided by likely center fielder Lagares’ who proved in his rookie season to be one of the best defenders in all of MLB.
Any injury or aging concerns shouldn’t be weighed too heavily, because Beltran has played over 140 games each of the past three seasons and likely won’t demand an expensive, long-term contract like many of the other free agents the Mets may target.
Signing Beltran would be a high upside, low risk option for the Mets who are going to need all the help they can get in order to return to the postseason.