In the end, Carlos Beltran acted with his head over his heart.
While still believing he could play center field, the 33-year-old Beltran doesn’t think he could play to the level he had grown accustomed to immediately and told manager Terry Collins this morning that it was in the best interest of everybody that he move to right field now and let Angel Pagan play center.
Beltran said he wanted to make the switch now because of his knees, although Collins was prepared to give the veteran until the middle of the month to see if he can still play center.
“I have to think about my health and how to be in the field for the team,’’ Beltran told reporters this morning in Port St. Lucie. “ I believe the best decision is for me to play right field. It’s going to be less active, and I am looking forward to saving my knees for the long run.
“I know if I am healthy and I can play more time in the field, I can help this team offensively, even in the outfield. I know it will be a different transition for me to make but I feel I will be able to go to that.’’
Beltran insisted his thought process was in the best interest of the Mets on several levels: 1) it gives Beltran more time to adjust to right, 2) it saves Collins the aggravation of where does he play Beltran and Pagan on any given day, 3) it takes pressure off Pagan and lets him concentrate on center, and 4) it eliminates a distraction from a team that already has many.
“It’s not about Carlos,’’ Beltran said. “It is about the team.’’
But, Beltran isn’t being totally self-less in all this, as part of his decision came after talking with agent Scott Boras, who no doubt impressed upon the veteran outfielder of this move on his future value.
At 33, Beltran is entering the final season of a seven-year, $119-million contract, and after 2011 will be looking for one more score. It won’t be for another seven, but two or three isn’t out of the question if he gets through this season healthy and productive.
The move to right would enhance Beltran’s value in several ways, including: 1) with potentially less wear on his arthritic right knee playing right he could be healthy entering the market, 2) it demonstrates the ability to be a team player and adjust to a new role, which would not go unnoticed by a future employer, 3) should he remain healthy his production should increase, and at this stage of his career the thinking is offense, and that opens up the American League as a DH possibility, and 4) if this enables him to get off to a good start he could be easier to move at the trade deadline.
Unquestionably, there’s a pride issue with Beltran, who believes if given the time he could still play his natural position, but this was a business decision made in the best interest of all.