In a move that bears more than a passing resemblance to his Thanksgiving dinner wooing session of Pedro Martinez, Mets general manager Omar Minaya is poised to make his second – and even bigger – impact signing of this offseason by going after Carlos Beltran, the top prize of this entire free agent market and a name that many had already fitted for pinstripes next year.
According to a National League source familiar with the Mets’ thinking this entire offseason, the Mets are going to begin a pursuit of Beltran next week with the same intensity and style that they devoted to winning over Martinez. The Martinez pursuit culminated successfully two weeks ago when the right-hander inked a four-year, $53 million deal.
Here in Boston, that deal made a splash with ripples to be felt until the Red Sox can demonstrate that they can replace the results from the three-time Cy Young winner. In the Bronx, losing out on Martinez never turned into a big deal, since no one besides Steinbrenner ever considered hiring the hurler to be a top priority.
Beltran is another story.
Beltran will turn 28 in April, meaning his best years may very well be ahead of him. And the center fielder has already turned in a body of work that makes any red-blooded owner, general manager or casual fan drool. He is without a doubt the golden child of this free agent crop, and that is why his agent, Scott Boras, has made his boldest request yet for any of his current free agents: 10 years for $200 million, or $20 million a season.
The Astros are believed to have made the one and only bid so far, six years and $96 million, or $16 million a season. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is itching to wire cash into Beltran’s bank account. But even though one Boras client, Pudge Rodriguez, signed in Motown last year, it is hard to imagine Beltran doing the same. All during this hot stove season, the Yankees were supposed to be biding their time before making an offer that would top the Astros and any other pretenders to the throne of major league cash dispensers.
Lately, the Yankees have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Diamondbacks over a trade for Randy Johnson, arguably the one player the Yankees need most. Beltran is a close second for many reasons, none greater than the reality that Steinbrenner has always enjoyed collecting the biggest prizes he sees, $25 million luxury tax bills be damned.
So far this winter, the Yankees have added the likes of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Tony Womack, hardly back-page types.
Meanwhile, the Mets have been plotting the Beltran move, which should not come as the biggest surprise. Having already held trade discussions with the Cubs about Sammy Sosa and the Red Sox about Manny Ramirez this offseason, landing a marquee outfielder is high on the Mets’ to-do list. Snagging Beltran would be the ultimate accomplishment of Minaya’s already busy and productive offseason.
Emboldened by his success with Martinez, Minaya is going to employ the same face-to-face strategy with Beltran in order to pitch the perks of playing for New York’s other team.
If you can think of even ONE perk associated with playing for the Mets, please let us know. Besides the obvious ones, of course (getting to borrow Piazza’s Savatage CD’s, use of the parking space previously reserved for Donald Manes, shoeshines and backrubs from Joe McEwing, etc.)