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Beltran avoids arbitration with one-year deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Outfielder Carlos Beltran agreed Tuesday
to a $9 million, one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals that
avoided salary arbitration.

Beltran is eligible for free agency after this season and the
Royals have said its unlikely they will be able to sign their star
to a long-term deal before then.

Despite opening the 2003 season on the disabled list, Beltran
led the team with a .307 batting average, 102 runs, 26 homers, 100
RBI, 72 walks and 41 steals. It was Beltran's fourth season with
at least 100 runs and 100 RBI.

Beltran will anchor a lineup that also features two-time
All-Star Mike Sweeney and two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez, who agreed to
a $4.5 million, one-year deal with the Royals earlier this month.

Last month, Kansas City general manager Allard Baird said the
Los Angeles Dodgers wanted to trade for Beltran, but were unable to
offer anyone the Royals wanted in return for their leading
offensive player.

Baird has consistently said he expects Beltran to "be the
starting center fielder for the Kansas City Royals on Opening
Day.''