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Beltran traded to Houston
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Old 25 Jun 2004, 09:59 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Beltran traded to Houston

Star center fielder Carlos Beltran was traded from Kansas City to the Houston Astros on Thursday night as part of a three-way deal that also sent closer Octavio Dotel to Oakland.

The Royals wound up with three prospects: highly touted third baseman Mark Teahen and right-hander Mike Wood from Oakland, and catcher John Buck from the Astros.

"This is obviously huge for our organization," Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "Carlos Beltran is one of the most exciting, complete players in our game today.

"He's the prototype we've been looking for for a long time. He's going to be a very exciting force for us in the middle of our lineup," he said.

Beltran can become a free agent this fall -- but for now, he joined a team clearly going all out this year to win its first World Series.

The Astros spent millions last offseason to bring pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to Houston. Clemens, who already ended one brief retirement, agreed only to a one-year deal, while longtime stars Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are nearing the end of their careers.

Last week, the Astros traded right fielder Richard Hidalgo to the New York Mets for reliever David Weathers and a minor league pitcher. This time, Houston pulled off a much bigger deal.

"When you have a chance to get an All-Star like Beltran, you do it, then you worry about filling in holes. He significantly makes us better, he is an impact player and will have an effect on our ballclub," Hunsicker said.

The multitalented Beltran is hitting .278 with 15 homers, 51 RBI and 14 steals.

"I feel pretty good about this. Obviously, it's bittersweet," Royals general manager Allard Baird said.

"It was obvious we were not going to be able to sign Carlos. But I think we've helped this club and gotten some players that should have very productive major league careers," he said. "I'm going to bring Buck and Wood to the majors right away."

Buck was hitting .300 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 227 at-bats for Houston's Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans.

Wood, 24, was 11-3 with a 2.80 ERA for Triple-A Sacramento and will be called up to the Royals on Friday. Wood didn't figure to get much of a chance to start with the A's, who have a talented rotation.

"Mike was having a tremendous year," Beane said. "Given the state of our current pitching staff, this is a reward for him and what he's done."

Teahen, 22, was hitting .275 with eight doubles and 10 RBI in 20 games for Sacramento. He was promoted after hitting .335 for Double-A Midland.

Beltran's arrival almost certainly means yet another position change for Biggio, who started his career as catcher, moved to second base and then center field. Biggio will probably move to left, with Lance Berkman shifting to right.

The 27-year-old Beltran, the biggest prize on the trade market, is making $9 million this season. He's represented by Scott Boras, who usually does not have his players re-sign before testing the free-agent market.

"It's been a crazy day, with a lot of ups and downs. It was a very challenging day for all of us," Hunsicker said.

As part of the trade, the A's also received cash from Kansas City, an amount under $1 million. Oakland was looking for help at the back of the bullpen.

"At the time I went to bed it didn't look like this would get done," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "There were other possibilities. To Gerry's credit, he said, 'We have worked so hard on this one. It would be a shame if we don't get it done.' "

Dotel, 30, is 0-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 14 saves in 17 chances in his first year as a closer following the trade of Billy Wagner to Philadelphia in the offseason. The four losses have all come at home, where Dotel has a 3.72 ERA. He has been tougher away from hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park with a 2.35 ERA.

Dotel, who is making $2.8 million this year and is eligible for arbitration after the season and free agency after 2005, is a hard thrower with 50 strikeouts in just 34 2/3 innings.

"He has a great arm, an electric arm," Beane said. "That's what you like to see at the end of the game. He misses bats."

Oakland's relievers entered the day with a 4.74 ERA -- fourth worst in baseball -- and Arthur Rhodes had struggled mightily in his first season as a closer. Rhodes had blown five of 14 save chances and had a 5.28 ERA.

Manager Ken Macha had stopped relying exclusively on Rhodes to preserve ninth-inning leads, but Chad Bradford and Jim Mecir also had failed to satisfy Oakland's needs. The bullpen has more blown saves (14) than saves (13).

"It's not that we had our eye on Dotel. It was a case of finding a guy in that position and role that's both available and also affordable," said Beane, adding it was the most time-consuming deal he's made in seven years as Oakland's GM.

"Face it, it's hard to find a premier guy at the end of the game that's going to be available. There are very few guys who fit that bill.

Minus Dotel, Brad Lidge becomes the Astros' closer -- for now. Lidge saved Clemens' 10th victory on Thursday night.

Asked if Houston might bring in a veteran relief ace, Hunsicker cracked a smile and said: "We'll see what tomorrow brings."
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