Could Carlos Beltran Be A Philly?

It seems almost inevitable that Carlos Beltran will be on the move.  There has been a lot of speculation as to where the outfielder will wind up, but one team that is very well in the mix is the Philadelphia Phillies.  Yes, the Phillies.  The division-winning, Mets-beating, Rollins-Utley-Howard we-have-four-aces Phillies.  And Beltran might be willing to join them since they are clearly a contender.  But the Mets would never deal a player of such high caliber within the division…would they?

There is always a certain danger to trading within one’s division.  With the unbalanced schedule, dealing with a divisional foe means seeing the player just traded eighteen times per year.  In the case of a rental player like Beltran being dealt mid-season, the Mets probably wouldn’t have to worry about the long term impact of trading him (it’d be more the emotional factor of seeing him a Phillies uniform).  It’s actually the Phillies who would face more long term risk if they give up a significant prospect.  While trades between the Mets and Phils have been rare as of late, there have been a few significant transactions in the past.

The most recent trade between New York and Philadelphia was in 2001, when the Mets acquired Bruce Chen and minor league pitcher Adam Walker for the relief duo of Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook.  A few days earlier, the two teams also swapped backup catchers, with Todd Pratt going to the Phillies and Gary Bennett to the Mets.  These aren’t exactly blockbuster names, but the Phillies were nipping at Atlanta’s heels at the time and wanted to shore up the bullpen.

The most significant trade between the two clubs took place in June of 1989.  Despite winning the World Series in 1986 and making the postseason in 1988, the Mets front office was in the process of dismantling the team, and dealt away Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to Philadelphia for Juan Samuel.  McDowell finished the season with the Phillies before moving on, but Dyksra stayed in the City of Brotherly Love until 1996, hitting .289/.388/.422 during his time in Philly, and did better than that when facing his old squad (.302/.408/.433).  Samuel, meanwhile, hit just .228/.299/.300 with the Mets and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers following the season.

The Mets don’t necessarily have a problem with making deals with other National League East teams, as long as they arent’ the Braves or Phillies.  Before the ’09 Jeff Francouer-Ryan Church swap, the Mets hadn’t traded with the Braves since 1996.  Contrarily, the Mets made five trades with the Washington Nationals franchise between 2002-09, although no player of major consequence was dealt (unless you’re counting Church, Lastings Milledge, Brian Schneider, Luis Ayala and Anderson Hernandez).  Furthermore, the Mets and Marlins have made some very significant trades in the past that saw Al Leiter, Mike Piazza, Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado come to New York.

So impact trades aren’t always precluded from occurring within the division, they just don’t seem to happen with the Phillies.  While it would be surreal to see Beltran in Phillies colors, I wouldn’t oppose such a trade as long as it made the Mets better, something that Sandy Alderson would also have no problem with even though the Wilpons might.  It would be a bitter pill to swallow, but if the franchise benefited in the long run, any outraged fans would eventually understand.

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