The Beltran Is Out of the Bag: No Deal, Astros Eliminated from Carlos Sweepstakes

Although with King George's greedy clutches waiting in the background it is no done deal, the Mets chances of signing Carlos Beltran just grew enormously as Beltran rejected the Astros final offer.

There are rumours that the Cubs and Yankees are still in the running with the Mets but to date, only the Mets and Astros had shown any certain intrest by offering a contract and with the Astros now out of the picture, the Mets are the favourites.

The Yankees, of course, with Steinbrenner loath to allow the Mets any crosstown splashy publicity which would take the spotlight off of him and his signings, continue to loom ahead and there is always the chance that they will jump into this chase before it is over. However, not having made any offer to Beltran and allowing the possibility of Houston to have signed him without bidding a cent on him, seems an indication that the rumours of the Yankees finally showing a modicum of fiscal restraint might possibly be true.

The Cubs are interested, no doubt, but like many teams, interest is not money and they have claimed all along they cannot afford Beltran so long as they still have team pariah Sammy Sosa. Ironically, the Mets had once been the Cubs most likely trading partner with Sosa and the failure of that deal might be the one thing restraining the Cubs from signing Beltran thereby allowing the Mets to do so.

The Trib's Phil Rogers reports there is a new round of Sammy Sosa-to-Baltimore rumors going around. The names heard with these include pitcher Sidney Ponson, closer Jorge Julio, outfielder Jay Gibbons and second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. … Arizona could be a Sosa possibility with if the Shawn Green deal breaks down again. The Diamondbacks say they want to win, but they have to sell tickets with Johnson no longer around.

However, it doesn't make much sense that the O's would trade for Sosa and take themselves out of the Carlos Delgado chase. If the Mets sign Beltran, they won't sign Delgado which leaves the O's and the Texas Rangers in the bidding. If the Mets didn't sign Beltran and chased Delgado instead then the O's might be interested in Sosa as a really bad consolation prize, but probably not before then.

And the Diamondbacks signing Sosa is probably just wishful thinking on the part of a Chicago writer. The Diamondbacks don't need Sosa to sell tickets. They need to win, and getting the one-sided trade for Shawn Green is a step in that direction. They won't sign Sosa AND Shawn Green, so that's a no-go as well.

Of course, a wildcard, like the Florida Marlins, could jump in and sign Delgado, leaving the O's willing to deal for Sosa and freeing up the Cubs to chase Beltran but that would hinge upon the Mets not be able to reach an agreement with Beltran quickly now that their primary competition has been eliminated.

Carlos had some nice things to say about Omar the other day as well which make you think he's pretty much in the bag for the Mets:

"I've known Omar (Minaya) for a long time, ever since he was with Texas," Beltran said of the Mets' GM whom he met with last Monday when a contingent of Mets' executives arrived here to woo the slugger. "He's a great person. Good people."

So the Mets can hold their breath now and hope that Omar is agressive enough to sign Beltran before King George and the Yankees even start thinking about getting involved.

By the way, the Plea to Omar Minaya to sign Carlos Beltran now has 504 signatures.

Demonstrating their faith in the probability of Hamstring Jose falling prey to injury yet again this season, the Mets signed Miguel Cairo as a backup shortstop for the season.

Not only did Cairo hit .292 with six homers, 42 RBIs and 11 stolen bases for the Yankees last season, in the course of his career he's played every position but catcher and centerfield and will be a very valuable backup. A smart signing which will come in handy in the midseason when Hamstring Jose is on the DL or someone else goes down.

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