07/29/11 — Opinion - Defending World Champions pick up slugging Beltran

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Opinion - Defending World Champions pick up slugging Beltran

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 29, 2011 1:47 PM

Major League Baseball's trade deadline is approaching rapidly and several teams in need of an outfield bat were drooling over the Mets' Carlos Beltran like Terrelle Pryor at a car dealership.

Beltran, the biggest named outfielder available on the trade market was dealt to the defending world champion San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon in exchange for pitching prospect Zachary Wheeler.

Atlanta, Philadelphia and Texas had also shown interest in the slugger.

Beltran entered Wednesday with a .289 batting average, 66 RBI, 15 home runs and a .513 slugging percentage. Injuries and age have kept Beltran from being the defensive outfielder and slugger he once was, but he is still a proven run producer with valuable postseason experience.

The Giants upgraded an offense that entered Wednesday 28th in the league in team batting average at .248. San Francisco holds a 31/2 game lead in the NL West over Arizona. The Giants and Diamondbacks play nine more games against each other in the regular season.

Atlanta is loaded with young, talented pitching in its farm system and would likely have had to deal at least one -- if not two -- of its promising arms in order to land Beltran. Beltran is no longer an everyday center fielder, meaning the Braves would likely have shuffled their outfield to make room at one of the corner positions.

The Mets were willing to pay the majority of what's left of Beltran's $6 million salary, but any team that acquires him before the deadline probably won't be able to re-sign him until after the season. Beltran essentially becomes a rental outfielder in exchange for top pitching prospects with the potential to help a franchise for years to come.

Atlanta could use an upgrade in the outfield.

Jason Heyward, the right fielder who showed flashes of potential during his rookie season, continues to struggle. Since May 1, Heyward has hit .195 (32-for-164) with four home runs, driven in 13 runs and walked 17 times. He's recorded 41 strikeouts and an on-base percentage of .279.

Decreased playing time wouldn't hamper Heyward's career. Many believe he is the future face of Atlanta's franchise.

The Braves' placed All-Star catcher Brain McCann on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained left oblique he suffered in Tuesday night's 19-inning victory over the Pirates. At the time of his injury, McCann was hitting a team-high .306 and also led the club in home runs (18), RBI (55), on-base percentage .375 and slugging percentage (.600).

Beltran's offense could have helped in McCann's absence.

Texas is second in the league in team batting average and runs scored, but having another veteran bat in the lineup in the postseason never hurts. Especially since the Rangers would likely have to go through Boston or the New York Yankees to reach a second straight World Series.

Outside of Beltran, other outfielders reportedly on the market are Houston's Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn; Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton; Oakland's Josh Willingham; San Diego's Ryan Ludwick and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs.

Padres' closer Heath Bell continues to be another popular name among trade rumors. Texas is favored to land the All-Star reliever.

The deadline is 4 p.m. Sunday.

While all is quiet now, expect business to pick up in the next few days.

After all, October isn't too far away.