Quick: name one of the most underrated Mets of all time. Anyone say Carlos Beltran? That’s right-the man who signed with the Mets nearly seven years and $119 million ago is indeed underrated by a good chunk of the fan base (if you said John Olerud, he also ranks highly on that list and will be written about at some point later).
It’s hard to believe that a guy who signed a nine figure contract could be deemed underrated, but that description fits Carlos. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t brought a championship to New York like the guys on the ’86 team, or because he’s not a homegrown talent like David Wright or Jose Reyes, or because he’s not flashy like Pedro Martinez (not that Pedro’s career as a Met was underrated, but if maybe if Beltran was flashier he’d get more recognition). Now in the final year of his deal, Beltran is still out in the field producing, something the Mets will need if they have any notion of contending this season.
Admittedly, Beltran’s first year in Queens did not go well. 2005 saw Carlos hit just .266/.330/.414 with just 16 homers. In ’06, however, Beltran had arguably one of the best seasons by a Met ever. He batted .275/.388/.594 with 41 home runs (tied with Todd Hundley for most ever in a season) and 116 RBI. Furthermore, that season he owned a weighted on base average (or wOBA) of .412 (think of evaluating wOBA in a similar manner as OBP, meaning anything above .400 is outstanding) a weighted runs created (or wRC+) or 151 (100 is average). He also excelled on defense, saving 11 runs in center field and owning a UZR of 10.3 en route to his first Gold Glove. According to Baseball-Reference, his WAR for 2006 was 8.0, second only in the National League to Albert Pujols. Because Beltran infamously looked at Adam Wainwright’s curveball to end the 2006 NLCS, there are some Met fans who probably don’t remember Beltran’s achievements that year.
From 2006-09, Beltran was fantastic when healthy (which he was during that stretch until the middle of ’09). Over those three and a half years, he possessed a triple slash line of .286/.379/.531 and averaged 35 long balls per 162 games played. Then he had the knee troubles and missed half of 2009 and nearly all of 2010. 2011 rolled around and everyone wondered what Carlos would bring to the table. The answer so far has been a lot.
After a slow start, Beltran has turned things up. He’s hitting .296/.367/.521 with three homers and nine runs batted in so far this season. His wOBA is .389 and his wRC+ is 142. He hasn’t been as stellar on defense while playing right field (he’s minus three in terms of defense runs saved) but he’s been able to get in the lineup every day recently, having started the last ten games, including both ends of the double header against the Atlanta Braves. He probably won’t reach the same level of production that he did from ’06-’08, but Beltran has proven to be a formidable force in the Mets lineup.
There is no scenario where Beltran remains a Met past this season. If he plays well and the Mets are out of contention, he will almost certainly be traded, and odds are the team will go with an in-house candidate in right field next year if Beltran is with the team for the remainder of the year. Even though I agree he should play elsewhere next season, I will be sad to see Carlos go. When he signed with the team, he gave me hope and a reason to believe the Mets could contend. Now many are chomping at the bit to see his salary off the books.
Remember when Pedro Martinez pitched his final game as a Met in 2008 (at that point nobody was sure if it would be his final game, but a few days later it turned out that it was) and he got a huge standing ovation as he walked off the field? Or better yet, remember when Mike Piazza played his final game in a Met uniform, and the game came to a standstill when the crowd cheered and chanted Piazza’s name? Beltran deserves something like that. I’m not directly comparing his tenure with the Mets to Piazza’s, but the bottom line is that Carlos is one of the best players the Mets have ever had the privilege of handing a uniform to. If he is still with the team come September, I hope the fans give Carlos the respect he deserves.