In acquiring pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran, the New York Mets made out like bandits. The Giants get a piece to help them substantially this year, but with the risk of an enormous long-term cost.
Wheeler, who ranked No. 31 on my most recent prospect rankings, is an elite pitching prospect with a high ceiling. The right-hander will most likely be a solid No. 2 starter, but there is some chance he will be better than that because of the big fastball. He'll touch 97 mph and sits 91-94 or better with an above-average curveball that has shown it can miss bats. He has a fringy changeup that's a little too firm, and left-handed hitters are not impressed yet, as they've hit .292/.404/.487 against him this year. The fastball-breaking ball combo is top-notch, but between the changeup and a few other issues, Wheeler is high-risk as well as high-reward. His control is below average, with three starts this year in which he walked five or more batters, and he'll have to show durability to match his frame, as he's retired more than 18 batters just twice this year. You have to add an arm like that to your system any time you get the opportunity, but even as a fan of Wheeler's I admit he's no sure thing.
Beltran's value to the Giants depends largely on who he replaces. Of course, what the Giants should do is send Aubrey Huff out to pasture, but with their $12 million commitment to him next year (including his option buyout), that's not likely. They should at least park him on the bench and play Brandon Belt every day at first and Beltran in left field, which is their best offensive and defensive alignment. In the best-case scenario, if Beltran replaces Huff -- who has actually been below replacement level this year -- it's worth two wins to them the rest of the way, perhaps more given Huff's recent performance (.217/.295/.275 in July) and an obvious inability to play any position. If Beltran replaces Belt, the impact is limited, probably cut in half while also hampering Belt's development. Any other alignment is also suboptimal.
Beltran's contract includes a clause forbidding his team from offering him arbitration, meaning that the Giants can't get any draft picks for him if and when he departs as a free agent. San Francisco gave up six years of control of Zack Wheeler for about 60 games of Carlos Beltran. If Wheeler sees the big leagues at all, the deal will probably end up a losing one for the Giants.