BELTRAN IS THE BIGGEST UPGRADE RED SOX CAN MAKEBy Joe McDonald
Production from the right-field position will be critical for the Boston Red Sox for the remainder of the 2011 season and into the playoffs.
That's why Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein should pull the trigger and acquire outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets. Beltran's contract expires at the end of this season so his services could come on a rental basis, which is fine given his production and the fact that the Red Sox organization has both Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish in the system as options to take over next season.
Red Sox right fielders (Reddick's latest hot streak notwithstanding) just haven't gotten it done this season. Boston's combined .645 OPS from the position is ranked 28th of the 30 major league teams (ahead of only Oakland and Seattle) and the measly .222 average is second-to-last.
OK, you say, Reddick is currently tearing the cover off the ball after taking the right-field spot from the slumping J.D. Drew, but do you trust an unproven 24-year-old enough to ride him the rest of the way? This is a guy who, coming into this season, combined to hit .181 in parts of two previous seasons at the major league level. Would you choose to lean on him over someone with a track record like Beltran's?
The switch-hitting Beltran is currently hitting close to .300 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. Even though he's been in the National League for the last eight seasons, Beltran is the type of hitter who could take advantage of playing at Fenway Park. He owns a .327 average with six doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs in 25 career games in Boston. And his postseason numbers -- 11 homers in 22 games -- are great.
Epstein and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson talked recently, and the Mets have been heavily scouting Boston's minor leaguers, according to a source. So the interest is clearly there.
Epstein has traditionally been reluctant to part ways with top prospects for a short-term fix. But the bottom line is that Beltran gives this Red Sox team a better shot to win the World Series this season. If Epstein can make this deal without giving up a player he considers a cornerstone of the future, isn't it worth doing?
IT'S SIMPLE: RED SOX DON'T NEED CARLOS BELTRANBy Gordon Edes
Carlos Beltran is a six-time All-Star, a switch-hitting outfielder with a great postseason track record (.817 OPS, 11 home runs in 22 games), though the memory of him freezing for a called third strike in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS still haunts Mets fans.
Why wouldn't the Red Sox make a run at him, especially if GM Theo Epstein can do so without sacrificing his best prospects -- and with no compensatory draft picks coming to the team that trades for Beltran, the Sox GM might be able to get away with just that.
Here's why: The Sox don't need him. Spend your chips elsewhere, Theo -- especially if you can land a frontline pitcher.
Right field is covered. Or, more accurately, the offense is covered. J.D. Drew hasn't hit all season and Carl Crawford has been a nonfactor, and the Sox still have the most prolific offense in the game. Let Crawford begin doing what you're paying him $142 million to do, make Drew your outfield backup, and show some confidence in the kid, Josh Reddick, who even Epstein acknowledges is playing like a guy who has finally figured it out.
Find a veteran who can give you some right-handed at-bats off the bench -- Jeff Francoeur or Ryan Ludwick would both do nicely -- and if Reddick falters down the stretch, you'd still have the option of using Drew and that right-handed bat in a platoon arrangement.
Beltran would strictly be a rental, one who will not land the Sox any compensatory draft picks if he signs as a free agent elsewhere after the season, because his contract stipulates as much. There are enough other teams -- the Braves, Phillies, Giants, Pirates -- with interest in Beltran that Mets GM Sandy Alderson will probably be able to extract at least one top-tier prospect from one of those clubs, with some lesser lights thrown in.
No need for that prospect to be someone from the Sox system. Epstein is rightfully celebrated for restocking the Sox farm, which is a big reason why the Sox can be so active at the deadline -- he has prospects other teams want. But this team doesn't need a major deal. Barring a collapse, it already has all but locked up a spot in the October tournament. It needs judicious reinforcements -- a No. 3 or 4 type starter, a right-handed bat, another arm in the pen. Keep your powder dry, Theo. Pass on Beltran.