Royals 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 reliever Octavio Dotel to the Oakland Athletics.
"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 A's are counting on Octavio Dotel to be the missing piece of the bullpen puzzle.(AP)|
"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."
Beltran's arrival means yet another position change for Biggio, who started his career as a catcher, moved to second base and then center field. Biggio will probably move to left, with Lance Berkman shifting to right.
"There's not as much running out there, I know that," Biggio said. "We'll put our time in. We'll be OK. The ultimate goal is to try to win a championship here."
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 less than $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 three-time All-Star Billy Wagner to Philadelphia in the offseason.
Dotel was even booed off the mound by the normally patient Houston crowd after allowing three ninth-inning runs in a June 15 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
"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," Beane said.
"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," he said.
Dotel called it the saddest day of his career.
"It is one of the most upsetting things," he said in a telephone interview with Houston television station KRIV. "It's tough. You know you are going to miss these guys."
Minus Dotel, Brad Lidge becomes the Astros' closer -- for now. Asked whether Houston might bring in a veteran relief ace, Hunsicker cracked a smile and said: "We'll see what tomorrow brings."
The Associated Press News Service
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