PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Carlos Beltran might provide just the power bat San Francisco needs to make another deep playoff run.
That’s general manager Brian Sabean’s hope, anyway.
The defending World Series champion Giants finalized a trade Thursday to acquire the slugging outfielder and cash from the New York Mets, upgrading their inconsistent offense. Beltran first had to approve the deal to the NL West leaders.
“When you’re defending world champions, you do have to try to defend that title any way you can,” Sabean said. “We’re in first place. Hopefully we show we mean business. … Simply put, we’re thrilled with bringing Carlos on board. We really felt the organization needed a shot in the arm and more so our lineup.”
New York’s prize in the swap is pitching prospect Zachary Wheeler, who is 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 16 starts for San Francisco’s high Class-A affiliate in San Jose. The Giants selected Wheeler with the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft.
Beltran left Cincinnati on Wednesday, held out of the lineup by the Mets so he could travel to Philadelphia to join the Giants (60-44) for their series finale against the Phillies. He is expected to bat third and play right field Thursday night. Sabean said he will be the everyday right fielder.
The 34-year-old Beltran leads the National League with 30 doubles and is batting .289 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs.
Sabean made a handful of risky moves at midseason and late in the season last year that paid off big time. This is another huge splash for baseball’s longest-tenured GM, who endured the craziness of the Barry Bonds era and the home run king’s 2007 pursuit to break Hank Aaron’s record.
The Giants won their first NL West title since 2003, ended a six-year playoff drought and went on to capture an improbable championship—the franchise’s first since moving West in 1958.
“We’re at an interesting place in time. We’re trying to get back to the playoffs by winning the division, and much like last year taking our chances,” Sabean said. “It’s timely. Our fans deserve this as well as the team.”
San Francisco lost reigning NL Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey for the season when he tore three ligaments in his ankle and fractured a bone in his lower left leg in a home-plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25.
It was a devastating blow.
“Once Buster went down, I thought we were dead in the water to have the chance to replace him,” Sabean said. “Carlos has the chance to do that.”
Beltran was fully aware he would likely be traded in the final year of a $119 million deal he signed with the Mets before the 2005 season. He was plagued by knee injuries the past two seasons, but has been healthy this year.
The commissioner’s office had granted the Mets a 24-hour window to talk to the All-Star outfielder about waiving his no-trade clause. Shortly before an 8-2 win over the Reds on Wednesday night, Beltran arrived in the clubhouse and told his teammates he was on his way to Philly to join the Giants.
While parting with Wheeler was a tough call, Sabean and his staff weighed dealing a pitcher or a top position player. And Wheeler wasn’t going to be in the mix at the major league level for a while.
“Carlos is the player that we coveted all along,” Sabean said. “As we knew what the price of doing business was there, it became apparent no matter where we turned we were going to take a hit on our prospect list.”
That worked out for New York. This marks the second major trade for the Mets, who dealt closer Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee after the All-Star game.
“We were looking for big upside,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. “We could have gotten a package of three players from a number of clubs, but the overall potential of those players would not have equaled Zack’s potential.”
The Giants are batting .241 with 66 homers and 373 runs scores, all numbers that rank toward the bottom of the NL. Beltran will be an instant upgrade to an inconsistent offense. No Giants player on the roster has more than nine homers. Aubrey Huff leads them with 47 RBIs.
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