Red Sox Should Strongly Pursue Carlos Beltran to Stabilize Right-Field Situation, Provide Clutch Play Down Stretch


July 19, 2011

Red Sox Should Strongly Pursue Carlos Beltran to Stabilize Right-Field Situation, Provide Clutch Play Down Stretch When your offense leads the majors in nearly every major statistical category, it's unlikely another bat is at the top of your trade deadline wish list. But when your offense is rolling, it's also unlikely that position spot in your lineup contributes so little production that an upgrade may eventually be necessary.

Yet that's the situation the Red Sox currently face.

While Josh Reddick is doing his best to dispel the notion that the Sox need to upgrade their right-field situation, a right-handed bat, particularly a veteran, could really give the Sox a boost down the stretch and into the postseason.

That's where Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran comes in. 

OK, so maybe Beltran — or any right fielder, for that matter — would be more of a luxury than anything for the Red Sox, given the potency of the rest of the lineup. But with the Sox sitting atop the American League, pretty much any addition the team makes will be a luxury.

Beltran isn't going to make or break the Sox. Frankly, I'm not sure any player available at this year's trade deadline has that sort of potential. But he'd give the Red Sox a bonafide impact player to plug into a position from which they've received some of the worst production in all of baseball.

And since most of the Sox' current concerns are internal, with the health of their pitching staff at the top of the list, he just might be what the doctor ordered when it comes to acquiring someone from outside the organization who could help elevate them to the next level on a nightly basis.

Entering Monday's matchup with the Orioles, here is where the Red Sox rank among major league teams in terms of production from the right-field position (which has consisted primarily of J.D. Drew, Darnell McDonald and, once upon a time, Mike Cameron):

Hits: 73 (30th)
Doubles: 9 (30th)
Home runs: 10 (19th)
RBI: 41 (21st)
Runs: 37 (28th)
Total bases: 114 (30th)
Batting average: .217 (29th)
On-base percentage: .299 (30th)
OPS: .638 (29th)
Slugging percentage: .338 (28th)

The Mets, who have had Beltran start in right field for 83 of the team's 94 games, rank in the top 10 in the majors in all of those statistical categories.

Of course, that right-field production hasn't translated into a great deal of success for the Mets, but Beltran's true value could become more evident in Boston, where he's a career .327 hitter in 25 games. Now, 110 plate appearances isn't much of a sample size, but that .327 clip at Fenway is tied for the second-highest average in any park in which he's played more than 12 games.

And not only is Beltran a switch-hitter, which would fulfill the Sox' desire to add a right-handed bat, but he's shown a propensity for thriving on the big stage when given the opportunity.

Beltran's highest career batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS for any single month is August, with his second-best marks in all of those categories historically coming in September/October. In other words, the Sox would be getting him just before he usually peaks.

He also seems to thrive late in ballgames, something that would also be an upgrade over their current right-field situation. While J.D. Drew is a career .258 hitter in the ninth inning and Darnell McDonald is a career .200 hitter in the frame, Carlos Beltran has a .323 career ninth-inning average to go with a .391 on-base percentage — each the highest of any inning for him.

With the stakes even higher during postseason play, Beltran has been a monster. The only problem is that the six-time All-Star hasn't been given much of an opportunity to perform on the big stage in the playoffs, having played for the Royals, Astros and Mets in his 14-year career.

But when he has had the opportunity, he hasn't disappointed — with the exception of the infamous called strike three to end the 2006 NLCS, for which Mets fans will never forgive him. In 22 career playoff games, he has 11 home runs, 19 RBIs, a .366 average, a .485 on-base percentage, an .817 slugging percentage and a 1.302 OPS — all of which are simply amazing. In fact, he pretty much single-handedly carried the Astros to within one game of the 2004 World Series.

Oh yeah, by the way, he's a career .351 hitter in 97 career at-bats against A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia — three starters in the current Yankees rotation.

Of course, Beltran's probably past the days of carrying an offense quite like he did in the early 2000s, but he doesn't need to be a "make-or-break" player in Boston. He would just need to give the Sox what they haven't gotten thus far in 2011 — a stabilizing force in right field.

The major hurdle for the Sox, though, is that a deal for Beltran could get complicated. It's believed that the Mets are looking for a top prospect in return, rather than simply trying to dump salary.

For a rental player, that could end up being a steep price. It won't seem so steep, though, if Beltran can arrive on the scene, give the Sox three consistent months and help the team win its third World Series in eight seasons.

Sometimes you've just got to roll the dice. And since the Red Sox currently have most of the pieces to a World Series puzzle in place, it might be a good time to do so.

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