With $119 million deal comes stadium tour
A no-trade clause in the seven-year, $119 million contract, a recruiting trip to Puerto Rico by team brass, and 31 consecutive days of phone calls didn't hurt, either.
Beltran was welcomed by his new team Tuesday, ending a whirlwind courtship that began as a long-shot flirtation and evolved into the richest deal in Mets history. Already he was looking ahead, talking about a recruiting call he already placed to Carlos Delgado.
For the 27-year-old center fielder, the contract was all about commitment.
"When I was in Kansas City, I was always worried about being traded for five years," he said. "When I was traded to Houston, it was not a good feeling. I didn't want to go through that anymore. I would not sign without a no-trade clause. I was looking for stability. The Mets said they would give me that stability."
And they said it over and over and over again.
When general manager Omar Minaya decided the Mets had a shot at Beltran, the team went after him aggressively.
"Starting at Thanksgiving, they called me 31 straight days," agent Scott Boras said. "They checked in every day, asking where Carlos was at [in his thinking], saying they wanted Carlos. I would tell Carlos every day, 'The Mets called again.' And again. And again."
Beltran was impressed. Then came the visit.
Boras suggested the two sides meet in Miami. Minaya, fresh off his successful recruiting trip to the Dominican Republic where he charmed pitcher Pedro Martinez with Thanksgiving dinner, said the Mets would travel to San Juan to see Beltran on his home turf.
"If we are involved, we are involved to win," Minaya said. "I sensed when we got there we would be players, maybe underdogs. But I like being the underdog."
Beltran said the Mets' signing of Martinez impressed him. And he hoped his signing would have a similar effect on first baseman Delgado, another Mets' target.
Beltran was wowed by the visit, especially the sincerity of Mets owner Fred Wilpon.
"He told me, 'If you're happy in Houston, stay in Houston,' " Beltran said. " 'If you want the big stage, come to New York. Sign with the Yankees or sign with us.' He gave me options. He showed me the kind of person he is."
With the addition of Beltran, Mike Cameron might be shifted to right field if he isn't traded. Cameron will miss the start of the season and possibly all of April after surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his left wrist.
The Yankees seemed an obvious fit for Beltran, especially with their history of usually landing the biggest free agents. They were players in the Beltran derby, but Boras said their first issue was pitching and nailing down their deal for Randy Johnson, which they announced three hours after the Mets introduced Beltran in a unique New York baseball news conference doubleheader.
"The Yankees were interested," Beltran said. "But they wanted to wait to make a decision. I was not willing to wait to find a team. I wanted a commitment. The Mets were willing to do that."
Part of the timing issue was a change in federal tax laws which takes effect on Wednesday. By completing his deal Tuesday, Beltran saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on his $11 million signing bonus, according to Boras.
Beltran's deal calls for $7 million of the signing bonus to be paid upon approval of the contract by the commissioner's office and $2 million in January 2006 and $2 million in January 2007. He gets a $10 million salary this year, $12 million in each of the following two seasons and $18.5 million in each of the final four years of the deal. In each of the final four seasons, $8.5 million will be deferred at 1.17 percent compounded interest.
Beltran's contract, the 10th in baseball history worth $100 million or more, also calls for a $500,000 bonus if he wins the MVP award, $1 million if he wins it a second time and $1.5 million for every time he wins it after that.
He is the only player in baseball history to have four straight seasons of 20 or more home runs, 100 or more runs scored, 100 or more RBI and 30 or more stolen bases. He batted .267 with 38 homers and 108 RBI with Kansas City and Houston last season, and hit .435 with eight homers and 14 RBI in the postseason with the Astros.
Minaya and Boras seemed relieved after marathon talks Saturday and Sunday concluded with Beltran agreeing to join the Mets.
"It's like frogs on a lily pad," Boras said. "You don't want to end up at the bottom of the lake. You want to wind up on the lily pad."
And Beltran's lily pad came complete with a $119 million contract.
First-round pick signs
The Mets agreed to a five-year contract with their first-round pick Philip Humber, the third pick in the 2004 draft. The right-handed pitcher from Rice got a $3.7 million package as is expected at Mets minicamp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Wednesday and Thursday. He went 13-4 with a save and a 2.27 ERA in 20 games with the Owls last season. He gave up 87 hits and 34 runs while striking out 154 in 115 innings.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press