One of the more prominent rumors swirling around in Mets-land involves cashing-in on Carlos Beltran. Beltran has posted an awesome .285/.373/.506 line with thirteen homeruns, fifty-seven RBI, fifty runs, and three stolen bases. His ever-rising 1.9 UZR/150 in rightfield also marks a steady defensive improvement in his new position. Given his resurgence, age, $18.5 million price tag, and expiring contract without an arbitration option, Beltran is the quintessential rental player. This is why, however, the Mets should consider trading Angel Pagan instead.
No team in their right mind would surrender a top or even good prospect for Beltran since his tenure would just last two months (or possibly a little more, depending on whether this prospective team makes the playoffs). Beltran’s non-arbitration status is the real thorn in any “Beltran-for-prospect(s)” deal, as the receiving end would not be able to offer the veteran arbitration, and thus be denied the usual compensation picks (if he were to sign elsewhere in the off-season).
This is why if the Mets want to stay competitive in 2011 while simultaneously stocking their farm system, trading Angel Pagan makes more sense. In 2011, Pagan has posted an overall .256/.335/.358 line with two homeruns, twenty-five RBI, thirty-two runs, sixteen stolen bases, and a -5.3 UZR/150 in centerfield. Beltran’s power numbers and career achievements certainly trump Pagan’s 2011 production, yet the presented Beltran stipulations put a damper on his surface value.
For fans who think dealing Pagan right now would be selling low–considering the 30 year-old posted a .290/.340/.425 line with a 14.9 UZR/150 last season–one can also make the fair argument that Pagan’s seemingly “off” 2011 has been due to a nasty, early-season oblique injury. In fact, after missing almost all of May, the outfielder bounced back in June, owning a .300/.388/.430 line with one homerun, sixteen RBI, sixteen runs, seven stolen bases, and nine extra-base hits. He also sported a glamorous 0.66 K/BB. If Pagan were to continue his torrid June into July, the outfielder would surely be on-pace to duplicate his terrific 2010 campaign.
Hitting and defensive statistics aside, Pagan also has a much more favorable contract situation than Beltran. Pagan is just making $3.5 million this season, and despite almost being thirty years-old, the outfielder still has one more year of arbitration due to his less-than-six years of service time. This means that a) the Mets would not have a hard time convincing a prospective team to assume his remaining 2011 salary and b) this prospective team would be able to retain Pagan at a comparatively minimal cost to similar, hypothetical free agent outfielders.
But how about the Mets in 2012–won’t they miss the hard-nosed Angel Pagan? Maybe not as much as some people think. The Mets actually have an identical player in Kirk Nieuwenhuis, biding his time in Triple-A. Nieuwenhuis, a centerfielder, has posted a .298/.403/.505 line with six homeruns, fourteen RBI, thirty-three runs-scored, and five stolen-bases in 221 plate appearances. Cutting Pagan’s projected $6 million-plus salary in 2012, and instating Nieuwenhuis at league-minimum would also help clear payroll for re-signing Jose Reyes.
An argument of “Who’s Better–Carlos Beltran or Angel Pagan?” would surely be short-lived, as Beltran is obviously the better of the two. However, given the important factors of age, contract, and position versatility, Pagan appears to be the more appropriate player for the Mets to trade.