In right field for Pirates: Why not Beltran?

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The Pirates made what amounted to close to a nothing move yesterday -- a trade of minor-league players -- but so desperate are fans of the team for something -- anything -- the deal set off a whirlwind of rumors and speculation.

In reality, nothing has changed. Alex Dickerson, who the Pirates traded, had little future with the team. If he had, he would not have been traded for borderline prospects. Jaff Decker, the apparent key return, has a chance to help an MLB team some day. But so did Jerry Sands.

Not much to really discuss here.

So in the absence of anything concrete try this: The Pirates should eliminate one of their gaping offensive holes by chasing after free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.

This would be the kind of bold move the Pirates never makes. But wasn’t team president Frank Coonelly the guy talking about how the Pirates have become a better destination for free agents. Well, if that is so, the Pirates need to put their money where Coonelly’s mouth is.

For all we know, maybe they have. The Pirates work quietly in free agency. There rarely are reports of what they’re doing. General manager Neal Huntington has no interest in satisfying probing reporters with any news. As he says, the Pirates like to ''stay vague."

For a second, forget the money. Let’s discuss what Beltran would mean on the field.

Although once a superior outfielder -- three Gold Gloves -- he has declined, as his age, 36, would indicate. But he handled right field for St. Louis last year, he could handle right field for the Pirates.

Offensively, he is a better player -- by far -- than Marlon Byrd, who performed so well for the Pirates late last season. He was born in the same year as Byrd and has the added advantage of being a switch-hitter.

He is a consistent power bat whose credentials in a career that dates back to 1998 are borderline Hall of Fame. Over the past three years, his OPS has ranged from .830 to .910. He has hit 78 home runs during that span and has averaged 146 games a season. There is no indication his career is about to decline abruptly.

This is the biggest plus he brings: He has such a consistently strong bat that it lowers the need for the team to upgrade expensively at first base.

The Pirates went without power at first base and right field last year. With power in right field, they can get by at first base with Gaby Sanchez, a force against left-handed pitching, and either Andrew Lambo or a cheap option in free agency to face the predominant right-handed pitching.

What about salary?

MLBTradeRumors.com projects Beltran as receiving a two-year contract valued at $30 million. That is uncharted territory for the Pirates and it’s easy to see both Huntington and owner Bob Nutting perspiring over the possibility of having to pay a declining Beltran $15 million in 2015.

The Pirates have some money coming off the books -- A.J. Burnett, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes -- and they have significantly more money coming in from new national TV revenue and increased attendance last season. Paying Beltran would not stretch payroll beyond reality with the additional revenue the team will be receiving.

Convincing Beltran won’t be easy. But it’s a fact: The Pirates are a rising franchise and Beltran had a first-hand look at that last season. He had to be impressed.

Here’s one more selling point. Beltran is Puerto Rican and we all know what that means in Pittsburgh -- Roberto Clemente.

This from MLBTradeRumors.com: ''Carlos and his wife Jessica are prolific community activists. Beltran's passion for education led to the founding of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in his native Puerto Rico. The academy is a high school for the island's top baseball prospects and places an emphasis on teaching them English -- an opportunity."

That image reeks of Clemente. Sell Beltran on carrying on the tradition of Puerto Rican right fielders in Pittsburgh. Without the money, that won’t well. With the money, it has a chance.

It’s a tossup as to which would be more difficult: Selling Beltran on Pittsburgh or convincing Nutting that Beltran is worth $30 million.

But it’s a project worth undertaking on both ends.


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