By Rich Coutinho
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As we approach the trading deadline this weekend, Sandy Alderson and the many suitors for Carlos Beltran will be running up their cell phone bills in an attempt to get a deal done. The prevailing notion in the industry is the Mets are asking for too much and we live in a much different baseball world then we did say, three years ago. Teams are reticent to give up prospects, especially pitching prospects, and history has shown that rental players generally cost too much, especially blue chip rentals like Carlos Beltran.

The Mets are offering to pick up most of Beltran’s salary so they get top quality prospects for him, but what this also means is that the team is not looking to merely dump the rest of his 2011 salary. I have talked to a lot of people this week on both sides of the fence and there is a high stakes game of chicken going on right now with endless possibilities. The Braves, for instance, need a bat but more importantly, may need that bat (namely Beltran) not to land in Philly or San Francisco which could short-circuit their championship plans. Last night Chipper Jones left the game with a quad strain and you get the sense he might be a bat the Braves can not count on because of his injury history. The Phillies can be at times offensively challenged and we all know the Giants need a stick in the worse way.

From the Mets perspective, they want to deal Beltran but won’t pull the plug unless they get quality in return and by that I mean one top-level prospect (they’d prefer a pitcher) and one B level prospect and I am told that’s not subject to negotiation. In fact, rather than “settle” for marginal prospects, they might hold onto Beltran, but honestly that possibility seems very remote. One of these teams will get an itchy trigger finger and the combination of getting Beltran coupled with the prospect of keeping him off someone else’s roster will prove too tempting a deal to resist. And the longer the Mets wait, the more the “Beltran suitors” will be willing to put in the deal.

Could you imagine if the Braves, for instance, lost to the Phils in the NLCS because Beltran split up those big three lefthanders (Howard, Utley, Ibanez) so well that Fredi Gonzalez could not mix and match as well as he might have been able to. Better yet — can you imagine if the Giants lost close low scoring contests to the Philadelphia Holy Trinity (Hamels, Halladay, and Lee) because they just could not produce enough offense?

And as we get closer to the trading deadline, the more Sandy Alderson will be able to extract from these teams. That extra player or two may turn out to be big pieces in the Met future. Remember back a few years ago — the Expos wanted Bartolo Colon so much they trumped all other offers and dealt Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore. Forget getting all three of those guys–what if the Mets could land any player similar to one of those guys? That is why Sandy Alderson is being very patient here and that is absolutely the right tactic.

What do you think Mets fans? What can they get for Beltran?

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