The Mets could use Carlos Beltran. The player. The one they signed in 2005.
Because Beltran, the manager, encounters a roster with many issues. The Mets will need a starter if Zack Wheeler leaves and starting depth no matter what. The bullpen requires augmentation. The Mets might have three third basemen — J.D. Davis, Jed Lowrie and Jeff McNeil — or none. But as big as any issue — perhaps bigger — is center field; the position Beltran played with such two-way brilliance.
In 2019, when they went offense with Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo, it cost defensively — the Mets ranked 26th in the majors in center field defense by Fangraphs’ measurements. When defense was prioritized with Juan Lagares, he turned in the worst OPS-plus by any Met allowed to bat 275 times since Joe McEwing in 2003 — and his defense was not as strong as in the past.
Lagares’ 2020 option was not picked up. The Mets should also eliminate their penchant to force feed a hitter into center while tolerating sub-par defense. Nimmo and Conforto should be limited in center, used perhaps when groundball artist Marcus Stroman is starting. That could toughen decisions for Beltran for corner at-bats, should Yoenis Cespedes get healthy to join Conforto, Nimmo and perhaps Davis and McNeil.
The Mets already know they are going to be iffy defensively at first with Pete Alonso, at second with a more limited Robinson Cano, at third pretty much with whomever they play and at catcher when Wilson Ramos is behind the plate. They have to begin to shore up that side of the ball. This is a golden age of center field defense. Someone such as Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte might rate below average, but that is only because average now is so superb. The problem is the Mets have been well below average.