Beltran is likely to bat primarily third for the Giants and play right field. Entering Wednesday, San Francisco's No. 3 hitters had combined for a .249 batting average, a .304 on-base percentage, a .382 slugging percentage, nine home runs and 60 RBIs, ranking near the bottom of the National League in each category. By contrast, Beltran's corresponding figures are .289, .391 and .513 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs in 98 games. He also leads the NL with 30 doubles.
The Giants, who began Wednesday ranked next-to-last in the NL in scoring, expect not only a significant upgrade but also a substantial ripple effect through the lineup. With Beltran on deck, second hitter Jeff Keppinger should receive more pitches to hit. With Beltran on base, those who follow him in the order, most notably Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz and Aubrey Huff, will receive more opportunities to generate offense. Moreover, Beltran's presence should ease any pressure they have felt.
"Our offense has been inconsistent and we need some help," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to the absences of injured regulars Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez that have stunted scoring. Still avoiding discussion of Beltran's acquisition specifically, Bochy added, "There was a little sense of urgency to see if we could do something to help this offense get going."
Having fallen out of contention in the NL East, the Mets deemed Beltran expendable, particularly since his seven-year, $119 million contract expires after this season. He and the Giants became a match when Sabean, who has resisted obtaining players bound for free agency in previous years, removed that condition from his criteria in his zeal to build a second consecutive World Series winner. For weeks, the Giants have eyed Beltran, a six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and 1999 American League Rookie of the Year with Kansas City.
"This guy's a tremendous all-around player," Bochy said, again speaking of Beltran in general terms. "That's why he's made the All-Star team and won Gold Gloves and signed big contracts. He's one of the elite players in the game."
Other contenders, including the Phillies, Braves and Rangers, also reportedly coveted Beltran, who has compiled a .282 career batting average, 295 homers, 292 stolen bases and 1,128 RBIs in 14 seasons. By Wednesday morning, the competition was said to include only the Giants and Rangers, last year's World Series opponents. The Giants again emerged with the upper hand, due to their willingness to part with Wheeler. San Francisco's No. 1 selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the 21-year-old right-hander was 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 88 innings for high-Class A San Jose this season.
Beltran, 34, has been a highly sought commodity preceding the July 31 Trade Deadline before. In June 2004, Kansas City, his original employer, sent him to the Houston Astros in a three-team trade. The switch-hitter proceeded to amass 23 home runs and 53 RBIs in 90 games to help Houston win the NL Wild Card and Division Series before losing to St. Louis in the NL Championship Series. Beltran was perhaps the most feared hitter of that entire postseason, batting .435 with eight home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 games.
"You put him in a situiation where he has to start carrying [the team], he'll do it," said Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, one of Beltran's teammates in Kansas City. "He's really talented. I think he'll be a pretty good boost. I think he'll make everybody around him better. I think our offense will flourish from that."
Beltran owns a .310 average in 22 games at AT&T Park but has hit zero home runs in 96 plate appearances there.
"He'll have more opportunities now," Affeldt said.
Beltran's arrival will intensify the competition for playing time in San Francisco's already crowded outfield. Nate Schierholtz, who has emerged as the mostly everyday right fielder, likely will become the mostly everyday left fielder. Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres will share center field while receiving occasional starts in place of Schierholtz and Beltran, who has weathered a series of leg injuries in recent years. The Giants might face a difficult decision regarding Pat Burrell, who's currently on the disabled list with a right foot strain.
Torres, for one, was thrilled to learn that Beltran will be a Giant. In 2002, when Torres broke into the Major Leagues with Detroit, Beltran pulled him aside in Kansas City and offered his fellow Puerto Rican some hitting tips.
"After that, I've always respected him and admired him," Torres said. "He's a great person and a great player."
Torres acknowledged that he and others will play less once Beltran settles in.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Torres said. "Whenever you get the opportunity, you try to do your best."