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Rangers reportedly target Carlos Beltran, Heath Bell

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Adam Rubin of ESPN New York has a piece talking about the Rangers and the trade deadline, and this quote tells you what you need to know:

Texas has zeroed in on [Carlos] Beltran and Padres closer Heath Bell as its primary targets, according to a source.

Carlos Beltran

#15 / Right Field / New York Mets





Apr 24, 1977


Heath Bell

#21 / Pitcher / San Diego Padres





Sep 29, 1977


Rubin goes on to say that Mets scout Bryan Lambe has been "re-directed" to watch the Rangers' class A Hickory team.

The Hickory players are obviously far away from the majors, and this suggests that Mets are at least open to centering a return around young, higher-ceiling players, rather than major-league-ready pieces.  Jake Skole, Christian Villanueva, Kellin Deglan and Tomas Telis among position players, and Luke Jackson, Matt Thompson, Nick Tepesch, Cody Buckel, and Roman Mendez among the pitchers are guys who you'd think could be in play for someone like Beltran.  Jurickson Profar, of course, is the Rangers' top prospect at Hickory, but he is supposedly not being moved for a rental player like Beltran.  Beltran's value, meanwhile, is impacted by the fact that he can't be offered arbitration, so there would be no draft pick compensation after the season.

2011 - Carlos Beltran 94 342 57 99 30 2 15 62 54 60 3 0 .289 .388 .520


I suggested earlier this month that Neil Ramirez and Engel Beltre might be a reasonable deal for Beltran.  With Ramirez on the shelf and the Mets scouting Hickory, we could revise a deal to something like Buckel, Mendez and Beltre for Beltran.  

Beltran makes sense for Texas right now because the one hole in the everyday lineup is the third outfielder to play alongside Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton.  David Murphy has been bad this year, Craig Gentry is a great defender who is better suited for a bench role than as a starter, and Endy Chavez is Endy Chavez, a bench player you probably don't want to rely on as a starter.  

If we were starting a playoff series now, my guess is that the Rangers would put Mike Napoli at 1B and go with a Cruz/Hamilton/Mitch Moreland outfield against righthanded pitchers, and a Hamilton/Gentry/Cruz outfield against lefties.  

Beltran, though, would give the team a switch-hitting high-OBP hitter for the middle of the order, and would allow you to run out a playoff lineup that looks like this:

Kinsler -- 2B

Elvis -- SS

Hamilton -- CF

Beltre -- 3B

Beltran -- LF

Young -- DH

Cruz -- RF

Moreland/Napoli -- 1B

Torrealba/Napoli -- C

That lineup is strong top to bottom, offensively and defensively.  In fact, the more I sit and look at that lineup, the more on board I am with trading for Beltran, even knowing the price will hurt.

Heath Bell, meanwhile, is considered the top rental reliever on the market.  Bell, who went undrafted* and was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent.  After having no success in New York, Bell was shipped with Royce Ring to the Padres for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins in an exchange of spare parts after the 2006 season, and he's blossomed since then into one of the best relievers in the game.

*  Technically, he was drafted by the Rays in the 69th round in the 1997 draft, but was undrafted the following year and was signed after the 1998 draft by the Mets.

That said, the 34 year old Bell's performance this year, while superficially very good, has raised some concerns.

2011 - Heath Bell 2-3 41 0 0 0 28 2 40.1 32 13 11 1 15 30 2.45 1.17

The ERA is gaudy, but Bell is striking out only 6 batters per 9, well below his usual rate.  Bell also benefits from playing half his games at one of the best pitchers' parks in baseball, and in the weaker league, which leads to some concerns about how he'd translate moving over to the A.L., and a hitter's park like Texas in particular.

San Diego is going to be asking a lot for Bell, and of course, as a likely Type A free agent after the season, if they don't like any of the offers out there, they can keep him and collect draft picks when he leaves after the season.  The draft pick compensation, along with Bell's more reasonable salary (he makes $7.5 million in 2011), means that the price for Bell likely will be higher than the price for Beltran, assuming neither team eats any salary.