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Free agent-to-be in hot demand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Let the bidding begin for Carlos Beltran.

Kansas City Royals general manager Allard Baird, on the heels of a
demoralizing doubleheader loss to the Montreal Expos, said Friday that he is
ready to begin dismantling his team and build for 2005.

"This is a change," Baird told reporters.

Specifically, this means he is ready to take offers for Beltran,
his switch-hitting center fielder who is one of just six players
with at least three seasons of 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen
bases.

Beltran, 26, will be eligible for free agency after this year
and the Royals are determined to get as much for him as they can.

Baird said he has heard from clubs "on the East Coast and the
West Coast" who might be interested in the 26-year-old Beltran,
but refused to be specific.

"I think it's very unfair to the ballclubs I'm talking to on
any player," he said. "If they want to share it, that's fine."

Teams known to have expressed interest include Anaheim, Boston
and the New York Yankees.

There are certain to be others. Beltran last year become the
first switch-hitter to bat over .300 while hitting more than 25
home runs and stealing more than 40 bases.

The AL player of the month in April, he went into Friday night's
game hitting .270 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs.

Two weeks ago, Baird told clubs he would not consider dealing
any of his players without giving the Royals a chance to get back
in the AL Central race. They responded by winning six of 10. But
the doubleheader loss to Montreal made them to a league-worst
21-36.

"I will listen at this point," he said.

"Am I disappointed? No question I'm disappointed. I still
believe that this ballclub intact at the end of the season would be
better than it is right now. But time is not on our side and we are
behind the 8-ball, as we've talked about numerous times. And you
can't be completely off the pool table, so to speak."