Barring any off-season trades, the Mets outfield will feature Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, who is coming off an excellent season both offensively and defensively. Assuming Bay has no lingering effects from the concussion he suffered in Los Angeles last July, he will be the starting leftfielder. Who starts in centerfield between Beltran and Pagan remains a mystery.
Both Beltran and Pagan can claim center field as their natural position. However, Pagan is only 29, while Beltran will turn 34 during the first month of the 2011 season. No other starting centerfielder in baseball is older than Carlos Beltran. Also, Beltran is coming off two injury-plagued seasons. His extended stints on the disabled list were due to injuries to his lower body.
A centerfielder should be the best athlete on the team. He needs his legs more than any other player on the field, except for perhaps the pitcher. When you consider that Beltran was already losing a step or two due to his age and combine that with his recent injury history, would it really be wise for the Mets to have him play the most demanding outfield position day in and day out?
Meanwhile, Angel Pagan filled in more than adequately for the injured Beltran in 2010. Pagan was thrust into the spotlight in 2009 when injuries to Gary Sheffield and Carlos Beltran caused him to become the Angel in the outfield. When Beltran was hurt, Pagan took over in center field. After Beltran returned and Sheffield was injured, Pagan moved over to left field and performed well, often taking pointers from Beltran as to where he should play certain hitters. This on-the-job education helped Pagan immensely in 2010, as he played the majority of the Mets’ games in center field, making the position his own.
Carlos Beltran should know that once his contract expires at the end of the 2011 season, very few teams will be looking for a centerfielder in his mid-30s. If he wants to get one final multi-year contract, it will almost definitely not be as a centerfielder. Therefore, for the team’s sake as well as for his own financial future, it would behoove Beltran to move over to right field for the 2011 campaign.
Right field at Citi Field is as spacious as most center field areas in other ballparks. At 415 feet, the deepest part of the ballpark is in right center. Therefore, playing right field at Citi Field might be exactly what Beltran needs if he’s going to transition from centerfielder to corner outfielder in the hopes of extending his career. It won’t be that drastic of a change, as far as covering ground goes. If he can stay healthy (which recently has been easier said than done), one full season in right field might be what he needs to continue to be a productive major leaguer.
Of course, if the Mets do move Beltran to right field, he’ll have to learn not to have a centerfielder’s mentality. Beltran should know better than anyone what could happen when a former centerfielder moves over to right field and doesn’t give way to the current centerfielder.
No matter who the Mets manager is in 2011, he’s going to have numerous problems to address. One of them shouldn’t be who plays center and who plays right. The Mets should make the younger and equally athletic Angel Pagan the centerfielder and move the older and more injury-prone Carlos Beltran to right field for the sake of everyone involved.
Carlos Beltran has spoken up about his desires to remain as the Mets’ everyday centerfielder. He may or may not get his wish to play in center, but one thing’s for sure. He’s becoming the center of attention and in this city, he who becomes the center of attention better be able to back up everything he puts out there.