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Friday, June 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Major League Baseball
Beltran goes to Astros

By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press

JOHN SLEEZER / KANSAS CITY STAR
All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran will add a big bat to the Houston Astros' lineup.
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All-star center fielder Carlos Beltran was traded from Kansas City to the Houston Astros last night as part of a three-way deal that also sent reliever Octavio Dotel to Oakland.

The last-place Royals wound up with three prospects: highly touted third baseman Mark Teahen and right-hander Mike Wood from Oakland, and catcher John Buck from the Astros.

"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."

Beltran can become a free agent this fall. For now, he joins 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," Hunsicker said.

The multitalented Beltran is hitting .278 with 15 homers, 51 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases.
 
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"It was obvious we were not going to be able to sign Carlos," Royals GM Allard Baird said. "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.

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.

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.

Dotel, 30, is 0-4 with a 3.12 earned-run average and 14 saves in 17 chances in his first year as a closer.

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.

AP sports writers Joel Anderson in Houston, Josh Dubow in San Francisco and Doug Tucker in Kansas City contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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