By Peter J. Barrett
What if Carlos Beltran hit Adam Wainwright’s curve? That question was tackled by St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Derrick Goold.
Goold wrote that Beltran, “would have joined the ranks of Ron Swoboda’s catch and Mookie Wilson’s run.”
But Beltran did not even swing. He just stood there, with a look of disappointment on his face — a look fans would see a lot of over the next half decade.
Following the 2004 playoffs in which Beltran slugged 8 home runs in 12 games for the Astros, rumor had it that the free agent Beltran offered the Yankees a $19 million discount.
The Yankees passed, and the Mets feasted, signing Beltran to a 7 year, $119 million contract. Despite the sentiment of Mets fans toward him, largely based on that NLCS strikeout and his degenerative knees, Beltran played well when healthy.
Beltran’s total Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 32.2 ranks second in the Mets 50 year history. He also ranks high in several other categories, including 6th place in home runs (149), OBP (.369) and doubles (208.)
Assuming his knees cooperate, Beltran will play his first game back at Citi Field on Friday as the Mets welcome in the Cardinals for a four game series.
But what if Beltran never left? If the Mets were in contention at the trade deadline last year, and did not have the financial cloud of debt hovering over them, Beltran could have at least finished the season wearing orange and blue.
From there, it is possible the Mets, who were unwilling to shed over $100 million on free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, would have been willing to equal Beltran’s current contract of 2 years, $26 million. They even had that option this winter, despite trading him.
He certainly has earned his pay early on in 2012. Beltran leads the NL with 15 home runs and is third in all of MLB with 42 runs batted in.
While current Mets right fielder Lucas Duda leads the team with 7 home runs, and ranks second with 26 runs batted in, that just proves how weak the Mets offense has been. So, is Beltran worth a little over $12.5 million more than Duda?
The best way to measure worth is to compare WAR. Duda has accumulated a negative .3 WAR, while Beltran’s WAR is 2.3. At this point in the season, two wins may be worth $12.5 million — especially because it would jump the Mets from third to first in the NL East.
The problem is, even if Beltran was putting up the same numbers in New York, he could not use that $12.5 million to put towards a time machine.
His time in Houston is characterized solely by his historical postseason performance. His time with the Mets is remembered most for that 2006 NLCS called strike.
Batters usually get three strikes in baseball. Mets fans turned on Beltran after just one.