Mets Trade Carlos Beltran to Giants for Minor-League Pitcher Zack Wheeler

Carlos Beltran was traded to the San Francisco Giants from the New York Mets along with cash for a minor-league pitching prospect, the team announced today in an e-mailed release.

In return for the six-time All-Star outfielder, the Mets will receive right-hander Zack Wheeler, rated the 35th best prospect in the minor leagues by Baseball America. The Mets will pay $4 million of the $6.5 million that Beltran is owed the rest of this season, ESPN reported today, citing people familiar with the talks that it didn’t identify.

“We thank Carlos for all he has done for this organization -- both on and off the field -- and wish him well,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said in a release. “It has been a pleasure for me personally to know and be able to work with Carlos. He has been the consummate professional.”

The trade, which came three days before the trade deadline, clears salary space for the Mets, after owner Fred Wilpon told Sports Illustrated that the club may lose $70 million this season. The team received a $25 million emergency loan from baseball in November, and Wilpon is negotiating to sell 33 percent of the team for $200 million to David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital Inc.

Wilpon and co-owner Saul Katz are fighting a $1 billion lawsuit by trustee Irving Picard, who is liquidating Bernard Madoff’s firm. Picard sued in December, claiming Wilpon and Katz, through Sterling Equities Inc., had made $300 million in “fictitious” profits and took $700 million out of Madoff’s firm while ignoring signs of fraud. Wilpon and Katz have repeatedly denied Picard’s claims.

Home-Run Leader

Beltran, 34, is hitting .289 with a team-high 15 home runs and 66 runs batted in this season. He is making $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract signed in 2005. Beltran is owed $6.5 million for the final two months of the season, according to ESPN.

Beltran, who leads the National League with 30 doubles, missed at least half a season each in 2009 and 2010, primarily due to right knee injuries. In the deciding game of the 2006 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, he struck out looking with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending the Mets’ most recent playoff appearance without taking the bat off his shoulder.

The Mets are 53-51, 12 1/2 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, and 7 1/2 games behind the division-rival Atlanta Braves in the race for the wild-card spot. The Giants lead the NL West by three games over the Arizona Diamondbacks, and are next to last in the 16- team National League with 373 runs scored.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re looking for some help with this offense -- somebody that can hit in the heart of the order,” manager Bruce Bochy said before San Francisco’s 2-1 win at Philadelphia yesterday.

The Giants play the Phillies again tonight; the Mets are at the Cincinnati Reds this afternoon.

Sixth Pick

Wheeler, 21, was the sixth pick in the 2009 amateur draft. The 6-foot-3 right-hander, now in his second season of minor league baseball, is 7-5 this season with a 3.99 earned run average for the Class A San Jose Giants.

Wheeler was named a California League midseason All-Star and ranks fourth in the league with a .224 batting average against, according to the release. He pitched a scoreless inning in last year’s MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break, and is averaging 10.02 strikeouts per nine innings.

“Zack is one of the top pitching prospects in the game and we are fortunate to have him in our system,” Alderson said.

Beltran’s departure comes two weeks after the Mets traded four-time All-Star reliever Francisco Rodriguez and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be announced later.

The Mets started this season with a $119 million player payroll, seventh in the major leagues, according to USA Today.

Re-Signing Reyes

Shedding Beltran’s contract may help the team retain Jose Reyes, who will become a free agent after this season. The 28- year-old shortstop leads the National League with a .347 batting average and is tops in the major leagues with 16 triples.

Beltran was selected in the second round of the 1995 major league draft by the Kansas City Royals and was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1999. He was traded in 2004 to the Houston Astros, where he helped the team to a 92-70 record and its first National League Championship Series in 18 seasons.

In those playoffs, Beltran batted .435 with eight home runs and 14 runs batted. The Astros lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals in seven games and Beltran signed with the Mets in the offseason.

In 2006, Beltran led the Mets with 41 home runs, 127 runs and 116 runs batted in, helping the team to a division title and a league-high 97 wins. The Mets swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional series and advanced to the NL Championship Series for the first time in six seasons, where they met the Cardinals.

Playoff Strike Out

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, Beltran struck out looking at a curveball from Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainright. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series and the Mets haven’t made the playoffs since.

The Mets recalled 28-year-old catcher Mike Nickeas from the team’s AAA affiliate in Buffalo to fill Beltran’s roster spot. Nickeas hit .250 in eight games with the Mets earlier this season.

-- With assistance from Erik Matuszewski in New York. Editors: Michael Sillup, Larry Siddons.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net; Lydia Winkler in New York at lwinkler1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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