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.

–JB

6 Comments

Moving Brantley to 1st base would not be a bad move. After having the unexpected season of contention, signing a player like Beltran would keep the buzz alive in the city of Cleveland and tickets sales would no doubt increase.

Can’t help but think the offense gets so much better with Brantley starting at first (while also the 4th outfielder), being spelled by Duncan at first.
Not to mention putting Beltran in the middle of the lineup would protect Cabrera/Santana/Hafner.
None of that matters though, because the Indians aren’t going to get him.

I know there is so much more that goes into the Winter Meetings and the offseason than what all of us fans see. There’s so much behind the scenes stuff that will never be made public, e.g., the details of the “you’ll never guess in 50 tries” trade. Unfortunately the average baseball fan views the Tribe’s lack of public progress as “unsuccesful.” Maybe even more unfortunate is the fact that most people define success as whether or not a big name free agent is signed.

Personally, I’m happy with some of the moves they’ve made this offseason. Increasing payroll didn’t necessarily come about the way most fans had hoped (arbitration vs. free agent signing), but I believe the arbitration moves were absolutely the right thing to do. Granted I would also love to see a big name sign on to the Tribe, but I’m trying to look at this reasonably.

In the case of Tribe vs. Carlos Beltran – I see this as nothing more than the front office trying to save face with Tribe fans. Beltran didn’t want to come to Cleveland when the Tribe was in the midst of competing for the Central title, why in the world would he change his mind when there is quite literally nothing different about the team from then until now? I think it’s a “let’s show the fans that we’re trying” thing more than anything else. Once everyone realizes that they can’t afford him or Beltran reiterates that he doesn’t think the Tribe has what it takes, then we can all move on.

On your Twitter account, you point out that all of the free agent and trade scenarios that come up today — Swisher & Beltran — are not likely. What is possible?

they should make an offer for Soriano, and stick him at first base

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