Friday, February 26, 2010

Are Mets phasing out Carlos Beltran?

Last night on "Mets Hot Stove," Kevin Burkhardt interviewed the Mets' "starting outfield": Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur. At one point, it was predicted that since Pagan had 11 triples in little over half a season in 2009, he could get 17 triples this year.

During the entire segment, nobody said a word about Carlos Beltran.

Last year, the Mets grossly underestimated injuries. Everyone was day-to-day, up to the point where they were being wheeled into the operating room. Maybe they are going in the other direction this year - assuming Beltran is out indefinitely and cannot be counted on for this year.

Or maybe Beltran is out indefinitely and cannot be counted on for this year, rather than coming back around early May, as has been previously speculated.

Unfortunately, the Mets have such little credibility when it comes to communicating on injuries that it is impossible to know what to believe.

Meanwhile, Jerry Manuel is planning dramatic changes to the lineup - batting Jose Reyes third - just until Beltran comes back. Or is it quietly planned to be a permanent change?

The worst-case scenario is that Beltran is more seriously hurt than the Mets are letting on. Pagan was a pleasant surprise last season, but he is no Beltran, either at the plate or in the field. Burkhardt asked Bay and Francoeur how long it would take for the new outfielders to get used to each other, and the corner outfielders joked that they would let Pagan go after all the flies. That joking around makes a lot more sense with the Gold Glove-winning Beltran still in center, instead of the guy that almost ran into Beltran last May and helped cost the Mets a game in L.A.

But the next-worst scenario is that there is still lingering resentment on the Mets' part over the Beltran surgery controversy and they would at the least not object to deemphasizing Beltran on "Hot Stove." (At least Bob Ojeda did mention Beltran later in the show.)

Beltran is entering the next-to-last year of his deal. He is battling injuries. The Mets have criticized him and his agent over the handling of his surgery. And his agent is Scott Boras.

Perhaps the Mets have already decided that they are not going to re-sign Beltran. Depending on how Beltran comes back from his surgery, it could be the right decision. But with two seasons to go, the Mets should be hoping that Beltran plays well enough to merit re-signing, not looking forward to life without him.

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