On January 14, 2005, the New York Mets signed Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million deal. At the time, the Mets decision to ink a player of Beltran’s caliber was seen as a major win. But with all the injuries in his latter years, the relationship between Beltran and some Mets fans soured. Regardless, it was hard not to be impressed with Beltran as a free agent.
The switch-hitting outfielder was a long-time Kansas City Royals star, winning Rookie of the Year in 1999, and placing ninth in the MVP during 2003. But with his impending (and surely expensive) free agency after the 2004 season, the Royals dealt the homegrown star mid-season to the Houston Astros in exchange for John Buck, Mark Teahen, and Mike Wood. The playoff-hungry Astros surged into the post-season, mostly due to Beltran’s incredible bat (.258/.368/.559 line with 23 HR, 53 RBI, 70 R, and 28 SB in 399 PA’s). Beltran’s heroics didn’t end in the regular season. The big slugger enjoyed a fruitful NLDS against the Atlanta Braves (.455/.500/1.091 line with 4 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R, and 2 SB in 24 PA’s) and NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals (.417/.563/.958 line with 4 HR, 5 RBI, 12 R, and 4 SB in 32 PA’s).
Yearning for the sweet champagne of October baseball, the Mets made an expensive pact with the 28 year-old star. In his first season in orange and blue, Beltran was a bit of a disappointment, hitting to the tune of a .266/.330/.414 line with 16 HR, 78 RBI, 83 R, and 17 SB in 650 PA’s. However, in his sophomore season, the tides changed. Beltran went from dud to stud–posting a magnificent .275/.388/.594 line with 41 HR, 116 RBI, 127 R, and 18 SB in 617 PA’s. His MVP-worthy play propelled the Mets into the playoffs, where the most unfortunately famous Beltran moment took place–the “bat on the shoulder” looking-strike in the NLCS. Yes, despite leading the Mets offense in the regular season, and even hitting a .296/.387/.667 line with 3 HR, 4 RBI, and 8 R in 31 PA’s against the Cardinals, some Mets fans only think of Beltran as some sort of timid player. Oh well.
The mighty Beltran would have MVP-caliber seasons in 2007 (.276/.353/.525 line) and 2008 (.284/.376/.500 line) before succumbing to knee injuries in 2009 (just 308 PA’s). Knee injuries continued to bother Beltran in 2010, making his 2011–the final season in his contract–a huge question mark. Regardless of his question mark status, the 34 year-old veteran surprised critics with a renaissance season in 2011. Beltran posted a .289/.391/.513 line with 15 HR, 66 RBI, 61 R, and 3 SB in 419 PA’s for the Mets before being traded mid-season to the San Francisco Giants for super prospect Zack Wheeler. The outfielder helped the Giants cause in the second half, hitting a .323/.369/.551 line with 7 HR, 18 RBI, and 17 R in 179 PA’s, but the Giants fell short.
In Beltran’s first free agency in seven years, he received many offers–including a two-year, $26 million deal from the St. Louis Cardinals. Even though Beltran’s 2009 and 2010 were marred by injuries, on the whole, any right-minded Mets fan will agree that the signing was a prudent one. Beltran gave the organizations many years of productive baseball (both at the plate and in the field). Considering the amount of bad long-term deals teams hand out on a steady basis, Carlos Beltran’s certainly does not rank within them.