Later today, it’s believed that the New York Mets will announce that Angel Pagan will be the team’s everyday center fielder for the 2011 season, pushing three time Gold Glove Award winner Carlos Beltran into right field. Beltran has played in only 145 games over the last two seasons due to knee injuries. In limited action, he proved to be a pale imitation of his former self, lacking the defensive brilliance that Mets fans had come to expect from him in center field, declining drastically in defensive metrics from his last full season in 2008.
Despite his recent history, heading into Spring Training, Beltran was expected to compete for the center fielder’s job, but as the Grapefruit schedule kicks off, he finds himself still not healthy enough to play defense, and so according to Adam Rubin of ESPN, told Pagan and manager Terry Collins this morning that he’s ready for the move to right.
According to Mets third baseman David Wright:
That’s probably takes a lot coming from a guy that’s really accomplished what he’s accomplished. Carlos wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I just think it’s a very selfless act. Like I said, baseball players have a lot of pride. To be able to kind of swallow that pride and look at what’s best for the team and make that decision, says a lot about what Carlos is trying to accomplish here.
As much as I’d like to credit Beltran for his selflessness, the move is anything but. The former Kansas City Royal is in the final season of a seven year $119 million contract, and while a switch hitting center fielder with both speed and power would be guaranteed to do well on the free agent market, a bad showing in center this season could relegate him to the ranks of a defensive liability.
Beltran of course is represented by Scott Boras, and he would be loathe to allow his client to be seen next offseason as only a designated hitter, considering the incredibly poor market for those types this offseason. Playing right field is a much safer bet to allow Beltran to maintain some of the defensive credibility he’s earned over his career and in all likelihood it will reduce the wear and tear on his fragile knees, as he wouldn’t be expected to cover as much ground in a corner outfield spot.
Given Pagan’s success filling in for Beltran last year (11.8 UZR/150), whether the motivation is altruistic or not doesn’t really matter because it’s beneficial to both Beltran and the team.