Indians still trying for Beltran?
Back in July, the Indians expressed interest in acquiring outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Mets before the Trade Deadline. Reports on Thursday morning indicated that Cleveland was now showing interest in signing Beltran as a free agent.
According to various reports, the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays, and possibly at least one other club, are also in on Beltran at the moment.
The Indians are known to be searching for offensive help, but their sudden inclusion in the Beltran race is a bit surprising. For starters, Beltran blocked the process last July when he would reportedly only accept a trade to the Giants or Phillies. The interest between Cleveland and Beltran was not mutual on the surface.
While Beltran would be an upgrade for Cleveland — a team in need of an offensive boost — theclub’s outfield is already crowded with Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Aaron Cunningham and Shelley Duncan in the mix. The Indians’ financial situation is also such that the team might have to shed some payroll space in order to take on the cost of adding Beltran.
It is believed that Beltran is seeking a two- or three-year deal worth around $12-13 million annually. Up to this point this winter, it has been clear that adding something in the range of $7-10 million would be difficult for the Indians to do without also freeing up some salary space.
The Indians had early talks with free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, for example, on a two-year deal in the $14-16 million range. Had Cleveland taken on his contract, the Indians might have needed a subsequent trade to free up some cash. Willingham went on to sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins.
Cleveland could backload a contract for Beltran, considering a number of contracts will come off the books after the 2012 season (Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Derek Lowe). Even so, the Tribe might be forced to shift some things around a little in order to make it work for this year.
Beltran could play left field — Sizemore was re-signed for center — which would seemingly push Brantley into a fourth outfielder role. Brantley has also expressed a willingness to help out at first base, if needed. First base is currently Cleveland’s primary position of concern.
UPDATE: 1:10 p.m. ET – Have been in contact with a few sources this morning and I can confirm that the Indians’ interest in Beltran is legitimate. Nothing has changed behind the scenes in regard to the Indians’ payroll situation for 2012, though. That means that Cleveland still might have to shed payroll through trades in order to add a free agent who costs as much as Beltran. The level of talks are unknown at this point, but know that the Indians are interested in the veteran outfielder.
UPDATE: 8:03 p.m. ET – Yeah, so, nevermind. Beltran and the Cardinals have reportedly agreed to a two-year contract worth a little more than $25 million. There goes that. I have plenty of fans on Twitter saying they think this was all lip service by the Indians, or that the agent used the Indians to drive up the price. All I can tell you is a trusted source told me today that the Indians had legitimate interest in Beltran. Did that make it realistic? Not necessarily. I certainly didn’t think it was realistic, but I believe the Indians took it as far as they could.