Minaya, Wilpon head to meet Beltran

NEW YORK -- GM Omar Minaya and principal owner Fred Wilpon led a contingent of executives to the Dominican Republic to meet with outfielder Carlos Beltran, the Mets announced Monday. <P> Joined by senior VP Jim Duquette and special assistant Tony Bernazard, Minaya and Wilpon made the trip to Santo Domingo to meet with Beltran, agent Scott Boras, and associate Mike Fiore.

The meeting took around four hours and was "productive," according to Boras, who commented briefly to the Associated Press.

On the Mets' part, it was a somewhat similar maneuver to Minaya's Thanksgiving drop-in that helped woo Pedro Martinez, and the strongest indication yet that the team is serious about getting involved in the big-money Beltran sweepstakes.

The top position player on the free agent market, the 27-year-old Beltran is expected to receive a long-term contract worth between $16 and $19 million per season.

MLB.com reported that Beltran has been offered a six-year, $84 million contract by the Houston Astros, a deal he would have to accept by Saturday in order to negotiate with Houston before May 1, and the New York Yankees are widely believed to be interested.

But the Yankees' pursuit may have been held up by their ongoing completion of the Randy Johnson trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, an occurrence the Mets appear to have taken advantage of.

When Minaya inked Martinez to his four-year, $53 million contract last month, Wilpon was not asked to make the trip to the Dominican Republic. His presence speaks volumes about how important Beltran now is to the Mets, especially with the revelation that centerfielder Mike Cameron could miss all of April after having damaged cartilage in his left wrist surgically repaired last month.

The Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs have also been mentioned as interested suitors for Beltran, who hit .267 with 38 home runs and 104 RBI in 159 games for the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros in 2004.

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