Courting Carlos Beltran

On June 24, 2004, one week after the Astros traded David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths to the Mets for outfielder Richard Hidalgo, the Astros traded Octavio Dotel to Oakland and John Buck and a sack full of money to Kansas City. The A's traded Mark Teahen and Mike Wood to Kansas City. And Kansas City sent 27-year old Carlos Beltran - whom they drafted in the 2nd Round of the 1995 draft and who had hit .287/.352/.483 in six and a half seasons for the Royals - to Houston. The trade came after the Dodgers refused to include 8th-inning reliever Guillermo Mota to get Beltran.

On that day, the Astros beat the Pirates, 3-2, and moved to 38-34. They were in 4th place in the NL Central, five games back of St. Louis and two games back of Cincinnati and Chicago. The Astros had signed Andy Pettitte in the off-season to a three-year deal; Roger Clemens had joined on a one-year contract. Jeff Kent was in the final year of his two-year contract. Jeff Bagwell was 36 years old, Craig Biggio was 38.

Astros General Manager Gerry Hunsicker said:
This is obviously huge for our organization. Carlos Beltran is one of the most exciting, complete players in our game today. He's the prototype we've been looking for for a long time. He's going to be a very exciting force for us in the middle of our lineup. 

Beltran was excited to be a part of a pennant race:
You always dream about being in a pennant race, being in a playoff. That's just something I want to experience. 

Jeff Bagwell was quite excited, as well:
It's a huge addition for us. He's a special talent. Obviously, he can only make us better. This is a special year. 

Lance Berkman knew what the move meant:
It reiterated what we already knew. This is it, we're going for it. The expectation is to win.

NBC Sports' Bob Celzik wrote:
It's probably just a rental. Beltran's agent is Scott Boras, who never lets his players sign for absurd amounts of money when he can hold out for obscene amounts...(Hunsicker) didn't guarantee the Astros a post-season berth. But he gave them a chance, which is more than they had when the week began. 

Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote:
The Astros have essentially conceded that Beltran will be only a four-month rental. He is here to bolster the club for the pennant stretch, and Beltran welcomes the challenge after watching the Royals fall out of contention.

In Beltran's 90 games with the Astros, Houston went 54-36 which was good enough for 4th-best in the National League, five games better than the Cubs and an astounding 18 games better than the Reds, edging out the Giants for the NL Wild Card by one game. Carlos Beltran hit .258/.368/.559 in the regular season.

July 15
The Astros fire manager Jimy Williams during the All-Star break (held in Houston). The Astros were 44-44, 10.5 games back in the Division, having lost six of eight games heading into the Break. They replaced Williams with Phil Garner. In 74 games under Garner, the Astros went 48-26, including a 36-10 record in their final 46 games. Only the Cardinals, Braves, and Red Sox won more games in the 2nd half.

Then the playoffs came and Beltran became a Houston legend. In the NLDS against Atlanta, Beltran hit .455/.500/1.091 with two doubles and four home runs as Houston won their first postseason series. In the NLCS against the Cardinals, Beltran hit .417/.563/.958 with four more homers.

October 21, 2004:
The Cardinals win Game 7 of the NLCS, 5-2 finishing the Astros' season. After Jim Edmonds' circus catch robbing Ausmus, and the Astros, of two runs, Roger Clemens allows 6H/4ER, 2K:0BB in 6IP, three of the runs came in the 6th when Albert Pujols' RBI double preceded Scott Rolen's two-run homer. Beltran goes 0x3 with a walk and a stolen base.

October 22:
Beltran says that he wants to play in Houston, but he's going to Puerto Rico to make his decision:
You want to get paid well, but it’s not only about money. It’s about being happy. I feel great playing in Houston. I played with so many great players. I’m going to go home and make my decision. 

October 25:
The Astros hold a Fan Appreciation Rally at City Hall. Many fans bring handmade signs, including several that exhorted Beltran to return to Houston.

October 27:
After blowing a 3-0 ALCS lead to the Red Sox, Steinbrenner summons his top executive to Tampa for meetings, where they are expected to pursue Beltran after he files for free agency.

October 28
Beltran files for free agency on the first available day. Meanwhile, the Astros exercise Craig Biggio's $3m option for 2005, but decline Jeff Kent's $9m option, instead paying him $700,000. General Manager Gerry Hunsicker makes it clear to Beltran that the Astros want him back.

Beltran says that Houston is his first choice.  He says that the Yankees have a great offense, but everyone knows that pitching is their problem. Regardless: 
It is very nice to know that there are many teams interested in me.

October 29
Beltran doesn't want the same experience he got with the Royals:
I experienced being on a team where they don’t do anything to help the ballclub. One of my priorities if I stay with this ballclub will be keeping the young guys. Our young players have the potential to be real good.

The Cubs are in the mix for Beltran.

October 30
The Angels decide not to re-sign Troy Glaus who, along with the departure of Aaron Sele, Kevin Appier, Ramon Ortiz and Troy Percival, will assist in freeing up $40m in payroll for 2005. MLB.com’s Doug Miller says:
By avoiding that type of financial commitment, the Angels could be in a good position to go after Houston center fielder Carlos Beltran, considered by most experts to be the top available free agent, or another free agent outfielder such as Atlanta's J.D. Drew or the Dodgers' Steve Finley.

November 1:
GM Gerry Hunsicker resigns from Houston, and Assistant GM Tim Purpura is promoted.
Hunsicker had one year remaining on his contract and said the subject of a contract extension came up last week in a meeting with McLane…He wasn’t interested in an extension and said that Purpura was ready to assume the top job.

Purpura vows to continue the "judicious" pursuit of Beltran.

November 4:
Phil Garner has the “interim” tag removed from his title. He and other Astros officials make plans to visit Beltran in Puerto Rico to get him to re-sign.

November 5:
Mike Cameon says that he’ll move to left or right field if the Mets can land Beltran. Mets General Manager Omar Minaya:
We’re going to try to be a player. I’m going in with an open mind. Let’s not limit ourselves and say no without trying to find out. Fred (Wilpon) has said they don’t want me to close the door on anybody. They want me to contact all the free agents.

November 6:
In an interview with Houston’s KRIV, Boras wants a 10-year deal for Beltran and says:
All of the fundamental aspects about the desire of him to stay in Houston and to look at Houston as a serious contender for his services I think are there. He is just going to go through the process, talk to those teams, and we are going to evaluate the ability of the club to have a winning environment every year, and certainly the economics of it.

Drayton McLane tells KRIV that the team won’t get financial parameters from Boras until the following week.

On the same day, Lance Berkman tears his ACL playing flag football at a church event.

November 8
Tom Verducci says the Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, Dodgers, and Yankees will be players for Beltran, in addition to the Astros. 

November 11:
To have a guy of that caliber coming to our team is not going to hurt us.

November 12:
Jayson Stark says that, in order to keep Roger Clemens for 2005, the Astros need to “make a serious charge” at keeping Beltran:
To construct that team, it will take more of Drayton McLane’s money than he has ever felt inclined to spend. And now Gerry Hunsicker isn’t around to play the vital role of a GM who could occasionally talk the owner into spending what had to be spent to do what had to be done.

Stark goes on to say that "One baseball man who talks to Beltran every few days" has been telling friends Beltran will stay in Houston. 

November 12:
Mets GM Omar Minaya lets Boras know he’s interested in Beltran.

November 13:
The Yankees internally slot Beltran as a player they would pay $13m per year. Boras is believed to be looking for $20m/year, but the Yankees are also focused on pitchers Eric Milton, Pedro Martinez, Carl Pavano, Derek Lowe and Kevin Millwood. They “are doubtful” about getting Randy Johnson.

Ken Rosenthal says the Angels are reportedly interested in signing Mike Piazza to replace the injured DH Tim Salmon, expected to miss most of 2005 following shoulder surgery. If the Angels get Piazza and/or Randy Johnson (as rumored), they won’t be able to afford Beltran.

November 15:
In a conference call with reporters, Barry Bonds says he wants the Giants to sign Beltran.
I want a big hitter, and there’s no question in my mind I’d like him to be young, due to the fact that there are certain things I could teach him. Everyone knows Carlos Beltran is out there and what a wonderful talent he is. He’d be a great candidate…

November 17:
SI’s Truth & Rumors column mentions a New York Post report that says a proposed Mets/Cubs trade involving Sammy Sosa will take some time, but that it “ultimately will get done.” Giants GM Brian Sabean says acquiring Beltran is “doubtful.”

November 22:
SI’s Jacob Luft thinks the Yankees and Cubs are favorite for Beltran, with the Astros making "a token run."

November 26:
The proposed Cubs/Mets trade involving Sammy Sosa is “increasingly unlikely.” Mets officials pledge to be involved with Beltran as well as outfielder J.D. Drew.

November 30:
The Mets have apparently outbid the Red Sox’s offer for Pedro Martinez.

December 1:
Jayson Stark says the Angels are preparing to make a run at Beltran while the Yankees and Diamondbacks dicker over the price tag of acquiring Randy Johnson.

December 2:
The Astros plan to offer a six- to seven-year deal worth “around $13.5 million per year.”
For the Astros, the risk is in waiting. They’ve got other needs. GM Tim Purpura has his eye on Steve Finley, Jose Cruz, Jr., Woody Williams, Ben Weber, and others.

December 3:
The Dodgers say they won’t be players for Beltran.

December 8:
The Astros offer arbitration to Roger Clemens and Carlos Beltran, decline arbitration to Jeff Kent, Dan Miceli, and Darren Oliver. The Astros re-sign Orlando Palmeiro to a 1yr/$800K deal and sign Russ Springer to a minor-league deal. NBC mentions a KRIV report that the Astros have offered Beltran 5yrs/$70m.

December 10:
The Dodgers sign Jeff Kent to a 2-year, $17m contract.

Also Andy Pettitte, who had elbow surgery in August 2004, begins throwing. Clemens wants to see commitment from the Astros before figuring out what to do in 2005:
There’s no doubt, the goals of the (Astros) will be a big part of the decision of what I will do.

December 12:
Roger Clemens accepts the Astros’ arbitration offer, ensuring that he'll either play for the Astros or retire. Tim Purpura knows that Clemens' decision has to do with the Astros' approach to Beltran:
Roger has expressed his thoughts as far as Carlos (Beltran) is concerned. Certainly, Carlos has expressed his thoughts in regards to Roger. They fit perfectly, and I think it’s a good indication, hopefully, to Carlos. If Roger plays, he will play for us. I don’t see it as being anything but positive on both sides.

Drayton is encouraged by Clemens' commitment to Houston, and the impact it will have on Beltran's decision:
I know Carlos deeply respected Roger. To play on a team with Roger, it was a privilege for him and everybody. He was a mentor not only to Carlos but everybody else on the team. He really, really enjoyed having Roger there. I think this is a very important step in the negotiations with Carlos.

Boras is also encouraged:
Carlos is very favorably impressed with Roger Clemens. He was a great teammate to him and certainly somebody he will always remember that he played with. I’m sure in his considerations about Houston he’s very happy that he’s returning.

Clemens’ agent Randy Hendricks:
I know Roger would certainly like to see (Beltran) play with the Houston Astros.

December 13:
SI’s Albert Chen says Boras, wants 10 years and $200 million, but doubts teams will go that high. One NL exec agrees: 
Beltran is a great player, but there’s a pretty significant gap between what they’re asking for and what teams are going to be willing to pay.

The Yankees agree to a four-year deal worth $40m with Carl Pavano and also open talks with Scott Boras on Beltran. The Angels sign Steve Finley to a 2yr/$13m deal with an option for a third year, signaling they’re out on Beltran.

December 16:
Reports surface that the Yankees have opened discussions with the agent for Carlos Delgado, but are thought to be focused on Beltran. The Astros are reportedly at 5yr/$70m for Beltran, but the New York Post says they'll go higher:
The Astros aren’t going to let the jewel of the free agent class leave Houston without making a serious effort to retain him.

December 17:
Boras client Adrian Beltre agrees to a 5yr/$64m deal with Seattle. Jose de Jesus Ortiz says that the AAV for Beltran will now start at $15m/year. Tal Smith:
This is the first one of the non-pitchers that really has an impact on our situation because of the same agent and so on. It’s very relative. That’s from our standpoint…Beltre had a great year, and I would think that would be someone who is a benchmark for Beltran.

December 18:
Reports surface that the Dodgers “might emerge as a player” for Beltran, but Beltran could decide on a destination by the following week. The Mariners, Cubs, and Tigers are linked to Beltran in addition to the Yankees and Astros.

December 19:
Beltran rejects the Astros arbitration offer and have until January 8 to negotiate exclusively with Beltran.

December 20:
Carlos Beltran and Boras will travel to Tampa to meet with George Steinbrenner.

Drayton McLane says he does not have a meeting scheduled with Boras or Beltran, though Boras and Purpura exchanged multiple emails over the previous weekend.
Although a meeting has not been scheduled, McLane is adamant that he would love to meet with Boras and Beltran any time this week.

A friend of Beltran’s tells The Record’s Bob Klapisch that “if money were the only consideration (for Beltran), the Yankees would’ve had Carlos by now.” Klapisch says the Astros improved their offer to $81m over six years, but were turned down.  Klapisch:
The fact that Beltran hasn’t embraced the Yankees yet – he turned down a chance to tour New York City, according to Newsday – is giving hope to outsiders, particularly the Mets…It’s a one-in-a-million chance, but some industry insiders say the Mets could have Beltran’s ear by playing to their increasingly apparent strength – the Spanish-speaking clubhouse.

December 22:
Astros officials present a sales pitch in a face-to-face meeting with Beltran and Boras at their Spring Training complex in Kissimmee, and make an undisclosed offer. McLane refutes a report that says the Astros offer a 6yr/$96m deal for Beltran:
I don’t know where that came from, but it is way beyond what our offers are.

Tim Purpura, on the meeting: 
(It's) a very good step…This is a continuation of what we all knew from the beginning was going to be a long process. 

Purpura won’t talk specifics of an offer, only to call it “very significant.”

Boras:
I think we’re at a point with this negotiation where we have entertained offers from everyone. We’re moving at a much more rapid pace.”

The New York Post says the expected cost of Beltran is 7yrs/$105m. They also say the Mets are working hard against Baltimore to sign Carlos Delgado and are “lurking on Beltran” for an opportunity to pounce.

December 23:
The Dodgers announce the signing of outfielder J.D. Drew for an expected 5yr/$55m contract. The Red Sox come to terms with former Astros pitcher Wade Miller, whom the Astros non-tendered earlier in the off-season after he injured his rotator cuff.

December 27:
Beltran says he was impressed by Steinbrenner after meeting in Tampa, and told a Puerto Rican newspaper he wouldn’t be intimidated by playing in New York.
I’ve let (the Yankees) know my interest, and they have interest, too, about me joining their team. The Mets have been very aggressive. So far, they haven’t made any offers. I think we’ll have a meeting very soon to talk personally.

Beltran also says the Mets, Tigers, and Cubs have shown interest:

December 28:
Responding to the rumors that the Mets are in on Beltran, McLane says:
If there’s going to be one or two more teams (on Beltran), bring them on.

December 29:
The Astros expect a decision from Beltran prior to their January 8 deadline.

January 3, 2005:
Omar Minaya expects to talk to Boras today and will fly to Puerto Rico for a recruiting visit (a tactic that helped the Mets land Pedro Martinez).
Boras would like nothing better than to get the Mets and Yankees in a bidding contest this week.

A Newsday report says Beltran would get a marketing boost as New York’s newest Hispanic star. ESPN says Boras says the starting point for further talks with Beltran is 7yrs/$112m. Another Newsday report says the Mets have gone to 7yrs/$119m.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune says the offer from McLane and Purpura is 5yrs/$70m with a 6th-year option and a $5m buyout.  During the playoffs there was a rumor that Beltran’s wife was “not welcomed by the Houston wives.” Beltran’s associates in Kansas City think he’ll end up with the Cubs. Not to be out-scooped by the rival paper, the Chicago Sun-Times says the Astros are still considered favorites to sign Beltran by the end of the week.

January 4:
The Mets head to Puerto Rico, deciding if they should sign Beltran, Delgado, or both.

January 5:
The Mets are reportedly in the $100m range for Beltran, so Scott Boras resumes negotiations with Houston. Jose de Jesus Ortiz says that:
People inside the Mets camp were still debating whether they should sign Carlos Delgado instead of Beltran…If anything, some people with the Mets thought they were much closer to signing Delgado…’That report that he’s signed with the Mets is bull,’ a person close to the negotiations told the Chronicle.

Drayton:
Boras updated me; he’s still negotiating. We’re still in it, but the time is getting short. They’ve given us no indication (he’s close to signing with the Mets). He’s certainly not given us any indication like that.

Boras says he has received offers from all interested teams.

January 6:
The Tigers say they’re out on Beltran.

January 8:
Because Beltran declined the Astros' arbitration offer, they have until midnight on January 8 to sign him, or lose negotiating rights until May 1.The Astros can't come to an agreement with Beltran/Boras, and Drayton McLane is devastated:
It slipped through our fingers in the last, last few minutes. It was just some sticking points. It should never, never have gotten to this.

Boras:
We must have had eight or nine conversations (with the Astros) today, and they made a very competitive offer.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz lists the Astros’ January 8 offer at 7yrs/$105m.

January 9:
The New York Times says the Mets’ offer is 7yr/$112m. Baseball officials tell the Times that the competition was really only between the Mets and Astros, and that Boras was using the Yankees and Cubs to drive up the price.

USA Today says the Mets’ deal is for 7yrs/$119m and includes an $11m signing bonus, which must come before January 11, when a change in federal regulations kicks in to make signing bonuses subject to increased taxes.

Purpura:
Scott called us to let us know they were going to go in a different direction. I don’t know if shaken is the right word, certainly disappointed.

Beltran says the lack of a no-trade clause from Houston pushed him to the Mets: 
I hope the Houston fans understand because I’m very grateful to them. This was a very difficult process...They offered me a seven-year contract, but they would not give me a no-trade clause. At this stage in my career I want stability. To be in a city during all the duration of my contract. New York offered me that stability that Houston did not offer.

January 10: 
A Chicago contractor whose family bankrolled Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaigns pleads guilty to defrauding the city through janitorial contracts worth $100m. As he left the courthouse, the contractor – James Duff – only said, “I hope the Cubs win.” He was asked when he decided to change his plea to guilty, he replies: 
When I found out the Cubs weren’t going to get Carlos Beltran.

January 12:
Beltran explains what went wrong with Houston:

When I was in Kansas City I was always worried about being traded, for five years. When I was traded to Houston, it was not a good feeling. I didn't want to go through that anymore. I would not sign without a no-trade clause. I was looking for stability. The Mets said they would give me that stability.  

Boras:
Starting at Thanksgiving, (the Mets) called me 31 straight days. They checked in every day, asking where Carlos was at (in his thinking), saying they wanted Carlos. I would tell Carlos every day, 'The Mets called again.' And again. And again.  

When the Mets arranged to meet Beltran, Boras suggested they meet in Miami. Omar Minaya was the one to decide to meet Beltran in Puerto Rico to separate the Mets from the Yankees and Astros (who met with Beltran in Florida). Fred Wilpon told Beltran that if he was happy, he should stay in Houston, but if he wanted a challenge in a larger city, he should sign with the Yankees or the Mets. Beltran says Wilpon's positive tone towards the Yankees showed character. 

Tom Verducci later says Beltran offered to take $19m less than the Mets ($100m) to play for the Yankees. GM Brian Cashman:
Pitching wins championships. And looking at Beltran, $100 million became $140 million because of the luxury tax. We'll pay Randy Johnson about as much over the next three years as the tax alone on Beltran would have been.

January 22:
Roger Clemens says that the idea of helping his hometown team for one more season was enough to bring him back. And Beltran?
No knock to Carlos, but he didn't do a whole lot. I mean, he was a tremendous player in September. We needed everybody. He was unbelievable in the playoffs. Everybody saw it. The nation saw it. But who's to say we're not going to have another one of those guys step up and do it for us again?

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