The next two months are likely to be filled with debate as to which players the New York Mets should trade before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The most obvious candidates are the team’s highest-paid prospective free agents: shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Carlos Beltran.
Of that group, Beltran is the most likely to go.
And the reason has to do with his contract.
At the deadline each year, “selling” general managers weigh the value of prospects offered against the compensatory draft picks the team would receive if the player signs elsewhere as a free agent after the season.
In most cases, teams must offer salary arbitration to the player in order to collect draft picks. That happens if the team is (a) certain the player will receive more lucrative offers elsewhere or (b) comfortable paying the player a one-year raise through salary arbitration.
For example, the Mets would almost certainly offer salary arbitration to Reyes if they don’t trade him; Reyes is a switch-hitting shortstop in his prime, and he is earning a reasonable $11 million this year.
With Beltran, there is no such incentive for the Mets to keep him through the season. A major-league source confirmed that his contract stipulates the Mets will not make an arbitration offer after his contract expires. (Scott Boras, Beltran’s agent, cleverly negotiated that clause into Beltran’s contract more than six years ago, to ensure that the potential loss of draft picks wouldn’t hinder his free-agent value this time around.)
In other words: For the Mets to get anything in return for Beltran, they must trade him before the end of the season – preferably prior to July 31.
Beltran is earning a base salary of $18.5 million this year – or roughly $3 million per month. Even with his above-average production in right field, the Mets will probably need to send cash to the acquiring club in order to move him.
-- Jon Paul Morosi