Today, the New York Mets announced that three-time Gold Glove center fielder, Carlos Beltran, will be shifting to right field this season.
Beltran missed the entire first half of last season, which allowed current Mets’ center fielder Angel Pagan to show his skills at the position.
Beltran is 33 years old and entering the final year of his contract. Though it’s unlikely he will be a New York Met beyond this season (if he even makes it through this season), he will have a chance to help the Mets organization with this move.
This decision should positively benefit the Mets, and here’s how:
Since the decision was made early in spring training, Beltran will have plenty of time to adjust to playing right field. For his career, he has only played three games in right, but he will see extra reps each day so he can get comfortable.
When healthy, he is still a great defensive outfielder who can cover a lot of ground. Citi Field’s right field is quite an adventure, so having someone out there that can cover ground will take away would-be extra-base hits.
At this stage of his career, Beltran realized that it would be a matter of time before he shifted to one of the corner spots. Pagan obviously has more range than Beltran and certainly showed it last year.
During the first half of last season, Pagan filled in beautifully for Beltran. He was arguably one of the top outfield defenders in the league for the entire first half of last season. When Beltran returned, Pagan willingly shifted to right to accommodate the Gold Glover. Beltran’s shift to right opens up center for Pagan, who rightfully won this competition early last season.
The benefit of having two center fielders playing next to each other is simple: not many balls should find the gap. Both can cover a ton of ground, so they have a chance to limit the number of extra-base hits. Pagan idolizes Beltran, so the two have formed a solid connection.
The move to right should ensure that Beltran’s knee heals healthy and he can return to the five-tool player that he is. His offense should see an increase. Beltran may not put up 30 HR or 100 RBI, but he should put up good numbers if healthy. He will need to be productive since he is the Mets’ projected clean-up hitter.
As the center fielder, Pagan instantly becomes one of the leaders of this team, which has lacked a bona fide leader for some time. I may be biased for having played the position, but center field is the most important position on the field. Any ball the center fielder can get to is his.
In his first real test as Mets’ manager, Terry Collins succeeded with flying colors. Collins brought Beltran and Pagan together and put the decision in Beltran’s hands. Though Beltran said he would eventually regain the strength to play center, he decided that Mets would be best suited with Pagan at the position moving forward. Rather than telling Beltran what he had to do, Collins handled the situation perfectly and actually let Beltran make the announcement himself.
Despite injuries recently, Beltran has had an impressive Major League career. However, with Beltran’s move, the Mets established early on that the no one is above the team. Beltran’s move to right could be the first of several surprises in store for the 2011 New York Mets.