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Suitors Lining Up for Beltran

June 20, 2004|From Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Starting immediately, the line forms to the right for everyone interested in Carlos Beltran, Kansas City's stylish five-tool outfielder.

And that's a lot of people. In Southern California, they think he'd be awesome as an Angel. The Red Sox dream of Beltran in Beantown. And they say in New York that he'd be resplendent in pinstripes.

No one doubts this will be Beltran's last year with the Royals, who've spent about $20 million scouting him, developing him and bringing him along to a point in his career when they can no longer afford him.

Now, it's just a matter of which big-spending team is going to wind up with the best center fielder Kansas City's ever had.

On the heels of a demoralizing doubleheader loss to Montreal, Royals' General Manager Allard Baird told major league clubs June 11 that he was ready to listen to offers.

Baird said he has heard from clubs "on the East Coast and the West Coast" who might be interested in Beltran, but refused to offer specifics.

"I think it's very unfair to the ballclubs I'm talking to on any player," he said.

Just 27 and coming into his prime, Beltran will be eligible for free agency after this season. The budget-conscious Royals have made it clear they do not care to pay the $14 million to $17 million per year it's going to take to sign him.

A contract in the order of the five-year, $70 million deal the Angels gave Vladimir Guerrero this year would not seem out of line.

Though with Beltran being represented by agent Scott Boras, teams are operating under the assumption he won't re-sign before becoming a free agent after the World Series. That means teams are likely to pay less because they would be getting Beltran for only a half-season.

The Royals, who are paying Beltran $9 million this year, have no intention of getting nothing for him.

"I don't think they are going to make any offer," said the modest, unassuming and deeply religious Beltran.

"So I'm just having fun with this organization. I'm going to try to help this ballclub win as much as we can. I want to help them offensively and defensively. There's not much else I can do. It will probably be a surprise to me where I finally go."

Never one to draw attention to himself, Beltran has been happy to stay under the national radar during his five-plus years with the Royals. His own traditionally slow starts and the poor visibility Kansas City provides all its players have denied him All-Star recognition.

So the average fan may not know he is one of just six men in baseball history with at least three seasons of 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Or that last year he became the 11th man and the first switch hitter to bat over .300 while clubbing more than 25 home runs and stealing more than 40 bases.

But he's no secret to baseball people.

"You're looking at the center fielder next year for the Yankees," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said after Beltran tripled and homered in a spring training game in March.

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