12.27.04

Mets, Minaya Bidding For Beltran

Posted in Baseball at 11:02 pm by

Since I openly scoffed at Omar Minaya’s chances of landing Pedro Martinez, I’m just gonna shut up and see how this situation plays itself out. And then resume scoffing. From Newsday’s David Lennon.

With the ink barely dry on Pedro Martinez’s contract, the Mets have now targeted Carlos Beltran a top priority, two baseball officials familiar with the situation said yesterday.

After weeks of internal discussions about Beltran, the Mets are prepared to make a serious push for the 27-year-old centerfielder, who already has visited with the Astros and Yankees. Luring Martinez away from the Red Sox was a nice coup for new general manager Omar Minaya, but winning Beltran will be a far more difficult — and costly — undertaking for a number of reasons.

Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a 10-year deal worth $200 million. It was Boras who scared the Mets away from bidding on Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season. The difference this time is that the Mets are coming off three disastrous years, not a World Series appearance, and principal owner Fred Wilpon apparently has entrusted Minaya with his checkbook to buy back some of that lost respectability.

Despite his agent’s lofty projections, Beltran’s price tag is yet to be determined, and the Astros reportedly started the bidding with a six-year offer worth roughly $96 million. Houston traded for Beltran last season, and after coming within a Game 7 of advancing to the World Series, thanks largely to Beltran’s record-breaking October, the Astros hope that familiarity works to their benefit.

Of course, the bottom line is the money, and Beltran is sure to top $100 million with the Yankees and Mets both involved. Beltran traveled to Tampa last Tuesday to meet with Yankees’ principal owner George Steinbrenner, though it is unclear if he received an offer, and Beltran could visit with the Mets as early as next week.

Minaya prides himself on the sales pitch, but despite a Thanksgiving recruiting trip to the Dominican Republic to woo Martinez, the Mets still had to decisively outbid the Red Sox with a four-year, $53 million contract. That won’t be so easy to do with Steinbrenner in the hunt, and Minaya will try to entice Beltran with something that the Yankees cannot match — top billing as the team’s brightest star.

Beltran, a potent switch-hitter with speed and defensive flair, is unlikely to topple either Derek Jeter or A-Rod as king of the Bronx. But there is a sizable void to fill in Queens, where Mike Piazza is in decline.

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