This weekend, the Mets are seeing what could happen after you trade off your stars.
Longtime Astros Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, dealt at last year's trading deadline, are now key components of first-place teams, while the Astros have the worst record in the NL and are drawing fewer than 25,000 fans per game.
It will be years before we know if the Astros got enough back to justify trading two longtime faces of the franchise. So far, it looks like they ended up with only one impact young player, Brett Wallace, who was acquired for Anthony Gose, who came to the Astros in the Oswalt deal.
Meanwhile, Berkman is off to an MVP-caliber start with the division rival Cardinals, while Oswalt is part of the "rotation for the ages" in Philadelphia.
Berkman won't keep up his league-leading OPS of 1.131. And Oswalt is currently on the DL. But it's reasonable to expect these players to play key roles in the pennant race while the Astros play out the string before empty seats.
Sure, the Mets are likely to get more for the much younger Jose Reyes than the Astros got for their older stars. And while Reyes' fast start is thankfully causing more people to realize that trading him will set this franchise back for years, it makes sense to trade an older player like Carlos Beltran who is very likely to leave the Mets anyway.
But if the Mets trade Beltran, they'd better get a really good prospect in return. The Post's Mike Vaccaro speculates on whether Beltran could get traded to the Yankees. Vaccaro concludes:
A one-sided trade between the two would be perilous. Is Beltran worth the risk? For the Yankees, absolutely. For the Mets? They might be better off winning than having to face that question.
I agree on the Mets' part. It would be bad enough to see the Yankees get back to the World Series. But to get back with Beltran playing a key role would be intolerable.
But what if Sandy Alderson could land one of the Yankees' top prospects for Beltran? Someone like Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances? I still wouldn't want to see that move, but I'd have to concede that it would probably be worth it for the Mets in the long run.
But I can't imagine Brian Cashman agreeing that a Beltran trade is "absolutely worth the risk" if it involves dealing Montero, who, if traded, would only be part of a Cliff Lee-type package, not for a Beltran rental, or either of the two pitchers, currently considered untouchable.
When the Yankees traded for Berkman last year, they gave up Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes. Melancon is now the Astros' fill-in closer with Brandon Lyon on the DL and Paredes is their sixth-ranked prospect, with a three-star ranking out of five, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Doesn't sound like a lot for Berkman, but it's probably along the lines of what the Yankees would want to give the Mets for Beltran.
If I were the Yankees, I wouldn't want to give up a top prospect for Beltran, but from the Mets' point of view, if that's the case, better to hold on to Beltran than to watch him help a rival in the postseason while you are trying to put together a rebuilding plan on the cheap.