Wheelin’ and dealin’: Analyzing the price to get Carlos Beltran

Zach Wheleer

So, after nearly four weeks of hearing about it, the deal is finally done.

Carlos Beltran is a San Francisco Giant. But at what price?

The Giants sent pitching prospect Zach Wheeler to the Mets. In exchange, they got Beltran and $4 million to cover the remaining $6 million of Beltran’s expiring contract.

Normally, in a trade for a player of Beltran’s caliber, a team will request a couple of prospects. The Giants got Beltran for just one, but that may just speak to what the Mets think about Wheeler. Another clue is the $4 million the Mets were willing to give the Giants in the deal.

Giants GM Brian Sabean said it hurt to give up a player of Wheeler’s ability.

So why then would the Giants trade away their best pitching prospect when they’ve cherished pitching so much over the years, especially when it was for a player who contract will expire in a couple of months?

Well, for one, perhaps the Giants saw something in Wheeler that indicated that his ceiling was not as high as originally thought. Giants GM Brian Sabean did say the Giants didn’t feel that Wheeler would be able to contribute on the major league level for a couple of seasons.

When I first heard this deal, my mind quickly turned back to July of 2009 when the Giants sent pitching prospect Tim Alderson to the Pirates for 2B Freddy Sanchez. I had a friend who was really excited about getting Sanchez. I wasn’t sure he was worth the price. But let’s look at Alderson’s career path.

Alderson was the 22nd overall pick out of high school in the 2007 draft. He was Baseball America’s No. 84 prospect in 2008 and No. 45 in 2009

He was 13-4 with 2.79 ERA and 1.094 WHIP in 145 IP in Class A San Jose in 2008. In 2009, He 10-3 with 3.93 ERA and 1.282 WHIP in 137 IP between Class A and AA. That included seven starts after being traded to Pittsburgh.

But in 2010, he was 11-9 with 6.03 ERA and 1.551 WHIP in 128 IP between AA and Class A. This season, he was moved to the bullpen and is 0-2 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.152 WHIP in AA.

Meanwhile, Sanchez was a pivotal part of last season’s World Series team.

Now for Wheeler.

He was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was Baseball America’s No. 49 prospect in 2010 and the No. 55 prospect this season.

Wheeler was 3-3 with 3.99 ERA and 1.449 WHIP in low Class A August in 2010. This season, with high-Class A San Jose, he was 7-5 with 3.99 ERA and 1.375 WHIP.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. But Wheeler’s numbers are not staggering, and it’s clear that he was not on the same fast track to the majors that Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner were on.

By moving Wheeler, the Giants clearly feel they have other arms down in their system. Position players were a bit thinner in the system. That’s why players like OF Gary Brown or OF Francisco Peguero and IF Charlie Culberson were not part of this deal.

“We didn’t think Wheeler was going to impact our situation in the immeidate future,” Sabaen said. “Quite frankly, it’s our job to find another Wheeler or develop another Wheeler. Once we decided we weren’t going to part with position players, we decided to go down this path.”

It is very important that the Giants continue to develop pitchers. Matt Cain is due to make $15 million in 2012 before being eligible for free agency. Lincecum has two more arbitration years and will make at least $15 million a year. The Giants are on the hook for $19 million for Zito in 2012 and $20 million in 2013, plus a $7 million buyout. Jonathan Sanchez has one more arbitration year. And Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner will be relatively cheap for a couple of years, although Bumgarner is arbitration eligible in 2013.

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