Make no mistake about it: New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson did a masterful job throughout the Carlos Beltran trade discussions. And fittingly, he culminated it all -- despite the doubters -- by frisking away a team's legitimate top prospect.
Sending Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for an arm with game-changing ability in Zack Wheeler is an enormous win for the Mets and it shows that the GM wants nothing but to shoot for the stars with young prospects. But maybe that's what we should have expected when the Mets took high school outfielder (who played in Wyoming) Brandon Nimmo in the first round of the MLB Draft, right?
What Alderson showed throughout these negotiations was not only his ability to play the market to his advantage, but also recognize top-end talent he's intrigued by, and hone in on it. Names like Domonic Brown, Jarred Cosart, Mike Minor, Gary Brown and Wheeler circulated early on when it became clear the Mets were ready to move their right fielder. But the skeptics popped up, rival GMs and scouts laughed. Beltran, after all, is a rental in every sense of the word. Beltran had a clause in his contract that he would not face arbitration, thus no team would be able to receive draft picks if they couldn't sign him in the offseason. While he was playing at an All-Star level, he is also a 34-year-old playing on a fragile knee. And, oh yeah, he had to say yes to any trade agreed upon. Who would just give away a promising young player for 60 games (and hopefully more) of Beltran, those skeptics thought.
Yet Alderson never budged. He knew that Beltran was the best bat on the market. A difference maker for a playoff team. And he waited until somebody came along and acceded to his request.
"We were looking for big upside," the GM said. "We could have gotten a package of three players from a number of clubs."
Rumors even circulated that after the Rangers offered their package, Alderson went back to the Giants and demanded Wheeler if they wanted to get a deal done. He knew the desperation from San Francisco's side ... its pitching is stellar, but its hitting left a lot to be desired, especially without Buster Posey in its lineup. It appeared, at least, that the Giants were one bat away from being National League frontrunners. (And this is not to say that that the Giants did a bad job in this trade. Beltran is a huge addition.)
Wheeler may never amount to anything -- nothing is for certain in baseball. But, he's just 21 years old. He throws in the mid-to-upper 90s and has an advanced curve ball. His fastball breaking ball combination is "top notch," according to ESPN's Keith Law. His offspeed pitch is below average, making him vulnerable to left-handed hitters. And his command need work. But he's young. And it's not like he wasn't holding his own in a hitters' league as it is: 3.99 ERA in 88 innings, with 74 hits allowed, 47 walks and 98 strikeouts in the high-A California League.
The fact of the matter is, despite the innate risks with prospects (and pitchers), the Mets added an arm with a very high ceiling. And they control him for the next six years, at a very reasonable price. They would have gotten nothing in return if they kept Beltran.
Instead, they get a potential frontline starter to pair -- in a perfect world -- with Matt Harvey in a few years. Plus, they get to take a long look at 25-year-old Lucas Duda in right field, and they get to see whether he has the makings to be a part of their future.
That six-letter word has rarely been typed or spoken about in relation to this organization in quite some time. That foresight alone makes this trade that much better for the New York Mets.