Mets lead Beltran pack

NEW YORK – The Mets have stepped up as front-running suitors for free agent Carlos Beltran, although that position could change as teams re-align their own pursuits in the next few days.

The Mets are believed to have made a substantial offer to the 27-year-old outfielder Wednesday, which has been reported as six years and $100 million. That figure would signify the largest amount ever paid out to a player by the Mets organization, although sources indicate that GM Omar Minaya is willing to go higher.

The Mets may wind up approaching a seven-year, $112 million deal by the time all is done, which is still a tick below the seven-year, $119 million commitment that agent Scott Boras was rumored to be seeking.

Exactly when Beltran might make a decision is a larger question. He is said to still be weighing a smaller offer from the Houston Astros, believed to be a six-year deal worth around $90 million, although the absence of a state tax in Texas would level the playing field with the Mets' reported offer. The Yankees could also join the bidding at any time.

Beltran's future could remain in the air until at least Saturday, when his negotiating window with the Astros closes. An Internet report that quoted two Mets officials in saying Beltran had already agreed with the Mets is believed to have been premature.

A bevy of Mets officials, including Minaya and principal owner Fred Wilpon, made the trip to Puerto Rico to meet with Beltran and agent Scott Boras this week, the clearest sign yet that the team is serious about plunging full bore into the free agent market.

Wilpon has already authorized a four-year, $53 million payout to Pedro Martinez this winter, with all indications that the Mets are now willing to spend big to build a marketable club. The Mets television network will debut in 2006 and is considered a major piece of the franchise's turnaround and newfound checkbook diligence.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories