Saturday, January 08, 2005

Well, the Astros are officially out of the Beltran sweepstakes...

Saturday's deadline came and went for the Astros without signing the much coveted free agent, which means (for all intensive purposes) that the only thing for certain now is that Beltran won't be an Astro next season. Now regardless of where he does end up - this is good news for Cubs fans. To begin with, it's been widely speculated that Roger Clemens' decision to return hinged (in some degree) on the ability of the Astros to bring Beltran back. Clemens himself admitted in a recent interview on ESPN that Beltran's decision was a factor in his willingness to return - and without Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran (and Lance Berkman for 2 months) - I don't see the Rocket returning. What does that mean? It probably means that the central is now a 2-horse race between the Cardinals and the Cubs. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of Beltran and Clemens staying in the central - and tonight's developments go a long way toward making sure that doesn't happen.

So what's next?

By all reports (and since Bora$ is involved - the old X-Files refrain applies - "Trust No One") the sweepstake participants are now limited to the Cubs and the Mets (surprisingly the Tigers still find their name occasionally mentioned even though not much has come out of their camp in this regard), with Bora$ hoping to lure Steinbrenner & his Yankees into the bidding fracas. Buster Olney is speculating that the Yankees will not enter the fray, especially since the increased luxury tax (40% after the 2nd year – ouch!) would make a $16 million annual contract roughly equivalent to a $22 million annual contract for them.

I think Olney is right. Steinbrenner’s pockets aren’t bottomless and the luxury tax should make the cost of acquiring Beltran prohibitive for the Yankees (and if they do sign him, we’ll know exactly who has cut a deal with the devil). If this is true, the race is between the Cubs and the Mets. By all indications, the Mets are the clear frontrunners. In fact, the Houston Chronicle is now reporting that Beltran will sign with the Mets. I don't understand why he would do that - especially since Bora$ could try to milk more money out of Fred Wilpon by holding out and floating phantom offers through the press. In any event, I'm not hopeful about the Cubs chances to acquire Beltran - he will probably end up with the Mets, which won't be too much of an improvement over his former Royals team (even with him and Pedro they're not making the playoffs). At least he's out of the central!

Did the price for Maggs just go up?

You've got to hand it to Bora$. The guy is a genuis. He holds out on producing any medical records on Magg's which makes teams wary about signing him. Then he waits until the last power hitting position player (except Delgado) has signed, and what do you want to bet that Bora$ will now release Magg's medical folder and that everything is clean? Supply has pretty much dried up and I still see a number of teams that desperately need a power-hitting outfielder and I don't see any other candidates besides Maggs. As long as Beltran was out there, Magg's was an afterthought. But now that Beltran is gone (apparently and according to the Houston Chronicle), Maggs becomes the center of attention and he will command Bora$-like dollars. At least I've seen reports that Magg's will give the Cubs a hometown discount - whatever that means. But I will say this - the Cubs need him to fill that gaping hole left by the departure of last year's leading RBI, HR, and run producer. And a Dubois/Hollandsworth platoon ain't the answer folks - that is if you are hoping not to see a reprise of Cubs2004.


Newsday is reporting that the Mets and Beltran are only $4-5 million dollars apart as of tonight:

The Mets appeared to be closing in on a deal to sign star centerfielder Carlos Beltran early this morning to make him their centerpiece player.

The Mets and Beltran were said to be "only four or five million dollars part'' in discussions that could put Beltran in a Met uniform for seven years. It is believed the Mets deal could be worth between $115 million and $119 million.