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More relative quiet out there today, with the winter meetings

Evan Grant talks about the hunt for a centerfielder, and discusses possible trade targets should the free agent market not work out:

Boston almost certainly will seek to move Coco Crisp to make room for Jacoby Ellsbury. Kansas City may consider dealing David DeJesus, and Oakland might look to move Ron Washington-favorite Mark Kotsay. Even the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran might be available, especially if the Mets get involved with mega-free agent Alex Rodriguez.

DeJesus is interesting, although he regressed this year with the bat, and there are questions about how good his defense in center really is. Crisp is terrific defensively, but hasn't hit. Kotsay? Meh.

But Carlos Beltran is the guy that has me salivating. He's an elite player, with four years at $18.5 million per year left on his contract, although $8.5 million per season of that is deferred (details on his contract available here).

He's 2 years younger than Torii Hunter. He's a much better player than Hunter, a legit middle-of-the-order hitter who plays great defense in center. He'll be 34 when his deal expires, after the 2011 season, while Hunter will turn 34 in year 2 of whatever deal he signs. Beltran's contract, given today's market, is very reasonable.

If you acquired Beltran, you'd control him for a while, and while he's going to be entering his decline phase, his performance still should be good enough to make him well worth the money (the PECOTA/MORP system values him at over $19 million per year every year through 2011, and his 50th percentile PECOTA projections have an EQA in the .300s the next two years, and in the .290s the following two years).

Unlike, say, Miguel Cabrera, who you would control for two years and look at losing (or having to moneywhip to keep around) just when you are expecting your team to hit its groove, Beltran is going to be around for your expected success window. And unlike Torii Hunter, who will likely be an albatross in his final few years, Beltran looks likely to be worth every penny he's getting through the end of his deal.

If the cost of acquiring Beltran is, say, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joaquin Benoit, and Eric Hurley, don't you have to think long and hard about that? Particularly since Saltalamacchia gives the Mets a catcher (which they need for 2008), and Benoit helps solidify the bullpen?

Now, this may all be moot, and the Mets may not want to deal Beltran...but if he's out there and available, he's the type of player who I'd be down with Daniels giving up significant young talent to acquire.

And the beauty of what has happened the past 9 months or so is, the Rangers can afford to give up a significant chunk of young talent while not gutting the system. And if there's anything worth giving up a significant chunk of young talent for, it is an elite-level player who is under team control for several years, who can reasonably be expected to play at a high level for those several years, and who fills what is probably the greatest organizational weakness.

I have to stop thinking about this. I'm getting too excited about the thought of Beltran as a Ranger, when Beltran probably won't even be shopped this year.