Indians still trying for Beltran

Back in July, the Indians expressed interest in acquiring outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Mets before the Trade Deadline. MLB.com has confirmed multiple reports indicating that Cleveland is now showing interest in signing Beltran as a free agent.

According to various reports, the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays, and possibly at least one other club, are also in on Beltran at the moment. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the field has since narrowed to St. Louis, Toronto and Cleveland.

The Indians are known to be searching for offensive help, but their sudden inclusion in the Beltran race is a bit surprising. For starters, Beltran blocked the process last July when he would reportedly only accept a trade to the Giants or Phillies. The interest between Cleveland and Beltran was not mutual on the surface.

Since then, however, Beltran has switched agents. He is now represented by Dan Lozano after previously having Scott Boras as his agent.

While Beltran would be an upgrade for Cleveland — a team in need of an offensive boost — theclub’s outfield is already crowded with Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Aaron Cunningham and Shelley Duncan in the mix. The Indians’ financial situation is also such that the team might have to shed some payroll space in order to take on the cost of adding Beltran.

Nothing has changed behind the scenes for the Indians in regard to their financial limitations.

It is believed that Beltran is seeking at least a two- or three-year deal worth around $12-13 million annually — possibly more. Up to this point this winter, it has been clear that adding something in the range of $7-10 million would be difficult for the Indians to do without also freeing up some salary space.

The Indians had early talks with free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, for example, on a two-year deal in the $14-16 million range. Had Cleveland taken on his contract, the Indians might have needed a subsequent trade to free up some cash. Willingham went on to sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins.

Cleveland could backload a contract for Beltran, considering a number of contracts will come off the books after the 2012 season (Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Derek Lowe). Even so, the Tribe might be forced to shift some things around a little in order to make it work for this year.

Beltran could play left field — Sizemore was re-signed for center — which would seemingly push Brantley into a fourth outfielder role. Brantley has also expressed a willingness to help out at first base, if needed. First base is currently Cleveland’s primary position of concern.

–Jordan Bastian

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