The wait for the Carlos Beltran trade has come to an end.
The Mets made the deal to send their right fielder, a free agent after the season, to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. Beltran agreed to waive his no-trade clause, and said goodbye to teammates before Wednesday night's 8-2 win over the Reds, according to ESPN New York.
The deal comes after season-long speculation about a Beltran deal, which intensified in the last month as it became clear the Mets were no more than fringe contenders for a playoff spot. Scuttlebutt in recent days had the Mets struggling to find a good return for Beltran, but the Giants stepped up to land him by offering right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler.
We've gone over Beltran's contributions to the Mets in the past, but his departure calls for a brief review. He's one of the best position players in the history of the franchise who put up three of the better seasons in Mets history from 2006 to 2008 and he doesn't deserve to be thought of only as the guy who didn't swing at Adam Wainwright's curveball.
The Beltran acquisition shows that the Giants plan to put up a fierce defense of their World Series crown. They have a three game lead in the NL West despite getting almost nothing from their offense since Buster Posey was lost for the season after a home plate collision.
Beltran should do a lot to change that. He'll slot right into the middle of the lineup and give the team a much better chance of scoring enough runs to support their pitching staff through another October run.
That gives Beltran everything he wanted out of a deal, so there's little surprise that he waived his no-trade clause to go to San Francisco. His departure allows the Mets to fully turn their gaze toward the future, starting with the haul received in Wednesday's deal.
Thanks to the arrival of Wheeler, the gaze looks mighty nice. Wheeler was the top pitching prospect in the Giants organization, a group that knows how to grow pitchers, and, according to Baseball America, the 55th best prospect in baseball entering the season.
It will be a while before Wheeler is dealing in Queens. He's just 21 and is in High-A with questions about how his arm will hold up over a full season in the rotation.
Still, he's striking out 10 batters per nine for the second straight year and generates a lot of groundouts, so perhaps he'll wind up as a power arm in the bullpen. The former first-rounder is exactly the kind of high-ceiling prospect that Sandy Alderson admitted to needing in a Beltran deal and he put his money where his mouth was by kicking in enough cash to secure a good prospect.
Wheeler's ETA is 2013 so it will be a while before we know the full impact of this deal, but it looks like a job well done by Alderson. Teams are increasingly skeptical about giving up elite prospects for rental players, but Alderson found a way to get the Giants to do just that to maximize his return on Beltran.
The only question left is whether this trade will have any negative impact on the Mets left behind. This team's fight has been notable all year, but will there be any drop in intensity after a deal that all but signals the end of a push for a playoff spot?
With so much still up in the air about the future of the club, we'd bet that it won't happen. There's still plenty to play for this year, even with the postseason out of the equation.