Creative Baird does well

Royals GM Allard Baird had to trade Carlos Beltran, and what he got for him was a strong package of prospects.

Originally Published: June 24, 2004
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

It wasn't easy upstaging Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor. But Allard Baird did it.

He could have waited to trade Carlos Beltran. He could have taken the chance on his offers improving and the price rising. But the Royals GM didn't go that route. And given the mess he could have found himself in, he made a heck of a deal.

He had a player he had to trade. He knew exactly what positions (third base and catcher) he wanted to fill, but was looking at a very limited field of candidates he even had a shot to trade for.

Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran will be a free agent at the end of the season.

He found a third-base prospect, in Mark Teahen, he knew he wanted, after scouting him personally. But the A's didn't have an available young catcher, so that meant getting creative.

It meant finding a third team, in the Astros, that had exactly what Oakland needed, plus a catching prospect to trade. And Allard Baird did that, too, with help from the tireless Billy Beane.

But even after all that, this trade still fell apart over money issues -- to the point where Baird told Beltran before Wednesday's game, "It's dead. So relax and go play." Turned out, though, it wasn't dead. So Baird, Beane and Houston's Gerry Hunsicker were able to revive it Thursday by shifting cash into Oakland's checking account.

This trade tells us that the Astros are almost desperate to win right now. And it tells us the A's knew they couldn't win without a power arm in their bullpen. Both of these teams have to get to the playoffs this year and have to advance. So they did what they had to do.

But it was Kansas City's need to export Beltran that set it all in motion. And, ultimately, when people assess this deal, they will ask: Did the Royals get enough?

Teahen will be the guy who determines whether Baird succeeded or failed. And from all accounts, he has a chance to be a star. But he's not a finished product yet. But Baird will send George Brett to work with him at Triple-A Omaha on smoothing out his swing.

He has excellent plate discipline and terrific defensive instincts. And after watching him, Baird came away convinced "he's the real deal."

Measured against Baird's other third-base options -- particularly Boston's Kevin Youkilis and the Yankees' Robinson Cano -- Teahen far and away had the most upsides. And Baird was pushed to hit the accelerator even harder on him when he sensed another club (believed to be the Dodgers) was going to trade for him if the Royals didn't (possibly even dealing Guillermo Mota).

Buck, meanwhile, was once regarded as one of the best catching prospects in baseball. His star has fallen in the last year, but he will catch in the big leagues. And if Tony Pena can't iron out his release issues, nobody can.

Buck's build (6-foot-3, 210) reminds scouts of a young Carlton Fisk. His game, however, is a little short of that, though he will hit some home runs. And if he quickens his release, he will throw out some runners. And again, given Baird's options, he could have done worse.

I feel good. I hate to lose Carlos Beltran. That's not easy. ... But I feel like we got maximum value for a rare player.
Allard Baird, Royals GM

The third player the Royals got, 24-year-old right-hander Mike Wood, is going to be a useful back-of-the-rotation, middle-relief type guy. For now, the Royals will plug him right into the rotation as their No. 5 starter. Eventually, he'll probably be a ground-ball specialist out of their bullpen.

Baird could have waited, but waiting until the deadline to make deals like this rarely gets you an optimum return. So he narrowed his options and plowed ahead before he'd even flipped the calendar to July.

"I feel good," he told ESPN.com Thursday night. "I hate to lose Carlos Beltran. That's not easy. ... But I feel like we got maximum value for a rare player."

Only time will tell if he's right, of course. But three scouts we surveyed Thursday night all said essentially the same thing: "Allard did well."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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