Beltran met with Steinbrenner Tuesday
HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros have made their first bid to keep Carlos Beltran. They know it will be far from their last.
Beltran met with Astros officials on Wednesday, Houston's latest effort to retain the All-Star center fielder who led the team within one win of its first World Series.
"This is a very good step," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "This is a continuation of what we all knew from the beginning was going to be a long process."
Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, spoke with Astros owner Drayton McLane, team president Tal Smith and Purpura at the team's spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla. A day earlier, Beltran met with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa.
After Beltran's postseason performance, he clearly became baseball's biggest offseason catch. He hit .435 in the playoffs with a league record-tying eight homers, 14 RBIss and 21 runs scored in 12 games.
He came to Houston in a midseason trade from Kansas City, with the Astros hoping he'd provide a spark for an underachieving achieving. Beltran did his part, and was a big reason the Astros finished 36-10 and won their first postseason series.
Knowing that the 27-year-old switch-hitter gives the Astros their best chance at a repeat performance or better, some fans have started a Web site -- KeepBeltran.com -- pledging to donate $25 a person to Beltran's favorite charity.
The site begs: "We're just a group of concerned Houston baseball fans that supports the Astros in an attempt to keep Carlos from being picked up by some big-money baseball empire." More than $20,000 had been pledged to the fund.
Of course, it's going to take a lot more than that to keep Beltran out of pinstripes.
"I think we're at a point with this negotiation where we have entertained offers from everyone," Boras said. "We're moving at a much more rapid pace."
Purpura wouldn't reveal the amount of the Astros' offer, saying only that it was "very significant."
"We stand alone," Purpura said. "We don't have any idea what the other clubs are offering or if they have offered."
If Houston doesn't reach an agreement with Beltran by Jan. 8, the Astros would be ineligible to re-sign him until May 1.
Purpura and McLane have made it clear that they'd like to have an agreement done before the deadline, but realize that will be difficult with such a coveted player.
"I think it can be done," Purpura said. "We need to get some things moving along in order to have a resolution."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman described Tuesday's session at Legends Field as a "one hour meet and greet."
"What comes from that going forward remains to be seen," Cashman said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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