By Joel Sherman
November 30, 2013 | 4:29pm
The Yankees are viewed as the strong favorites to land Carlos Beltran. Multiple executives with whom I spoke said that was the expectation.
“I think at this point it would be an upset if he didn’t end up there,” one executive said.
The Yanks want to limit Beltran to a two-year contract, but an AL official said, “Beltran wants three years, so I think the Yankees will either go three years or give him a [bleep]-load more on a two-year deal. I think the feeling in the industry is if it comes down to a two-year deal because no one goes to three, then the Yanks will win.”
One reason is that Beltran has made it clear this could be his final contract, and he wants to make sure to be with a team with a chance to win it all. With all the Yankees’ problems, they are selling free agents on a vision of importing big players this offseason (Brian McCann already, maybe Beltran, perhaps keeping Robinson Cano, etc.) even while living under $189 million restrictions, and only enlarging their aggressiveness next offseason.
The Royals (with 86 victories) actually won one more game than the Yanks, but according to the AL official, “Because of the history, it will be hard for them to sell themselves as championship contenders.”
Nevertheless, the team that traded Beltran on June 24, 2004, “really, really wants him,” the AL official said. “Do they think they could get him? I see them taking every avenue possible, but I would be shocked if they went beyond two years.”
An NL executive said the Royals have prioritized Beltran because they believe they are ready to win and need to make the playoffs in 2014 and “because they want to move around the DH more rather than have it just for Billy Butler.” For example, if Beltran were signed, Kansas City could play Justin Maxwell in right field against lefty pitching and DH Beltran.
The Royals, though, were described by executives as nearing their payroll restrictions already after signing Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract while also facing arbitration cases for their key relievers and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
If it signed Beltran, Kansas City could attempt to balance some of the finances by trading Butler, who is owed $8 million in 2014 and has a 2015 club option for $12.5 million or a $1 million buyout. The Mariners, deep in pitching prospects, are desperate for righty power bats and have been linked to Butler. Kansas City also is willing to listen on relievers such as Aaron Crow and Luke Hochevar, both arbitration eligible.
The Royals are feeling pressure to field a contender. They finished above .500 last year for just the second time since 1994 and have gone the longest in the majors without reaching the playoffs (1985). Kansas City used one of the game’s best prospects, Wil Myers, last offseason to acquire James Shields, who can be a free agent after 2014, and Jeremy Guthrie and Alex Gordon could be free agents the year after, while Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both Scott Boras clients, which means they are unlikely to sign long-term.
Thus, the window to win with this core is now, which is why manager Ned Yost goes into 2014 already on the hot seat.
Furcal falls off Mets’ radar for physical worries
The Mets had begun the offseason intrigued about enlisting Rafael Furcal to play shortstop next year. Furcal missed all of last season for the Cardinals after needing Tommy John surgery last March.
But the more the Mets researched the 36-year-old free agent, the greater their worry about his physical viability became, to the point that one executive said the switch-hitter no longer is a candidate for the Mets.
Perhaps that is why general manager Sandy Alderson last week revived the possibility of going with Ruben Tejada shortly after Jhonny Peralta enlisted with St. Louis. Peralta was the Mets’ main shortstop target, and Furcal was a lightning-in-a-bottle candidate.
Officials who do not work for the Mets but have received progress reports from Furcal’s workouts in Miami expressed the same physical concerns. The plan was for Furcal to begin throwing in a more aggressive way this week.
McCann arm a concern
One hiccup in Brian McCann’s game is his throwing, which one executive, whose team was interested in the catcher, said “wasn’t worth a [bleep] last year. His arm strength and accuracy were never great, but it was pretty bad last year.”
However, the same executive said he believes McCann “will throw a little better this season.”
McCann underwent surgery to repair a labrum tear in October 2012 and, the executive believes, prioritized getting back as soon as possible. Therefore, he did not get a long enough period to strengthen the shoulder post-surgery. McCann only missed April.
The executive theorizes that an offseason of rest and full rehab will help McCann throw considerably better in 2014.
Regardless of how it looked, though, McCann threw out 24 percent of players attempting to steal on him — which is his career average.
The Padres have made a few runs at signing third baseman Chase Headley to a long-term contract to no avail, and now according to sources, San Diego is willing to listen to offers for the switch-hitter.
The Yankees have inquired before, but neither side thinks they match up for Headley, who will be entering his walk year.
He is not going to be easy to move for reasons beyond his proximity to free agency. The Padres will want to market him as the MVP candidate who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs in 2012, and suitors will be concerned about the 13 and 50 he generated last year. The general consensus is that he probably falls someplace in between as a player.