Beltran suitors can’t offer arbitration

The New York Mets are asking high on outfielder Carlos Beltran because A) he is the best hitter available and B) some suitors indicate a willingness to part with good prospects.

Keep in mind, though, that a deal can be expanded beyond Beltran for youngsters.

Let’s say a team tells the Mets, "We’re not comfortable trading prospects X and Y and then getting no draft picks when Beltran leaves us as a free agent."

That apprehension exists among several clubs because Beltran’s contract stipulates that a team cannot offer him arbitration, eliminating the potential for draft-pick compensation.

Well, the Mets can address that concern by attaching young players or even major leaguers to Beltran, effectively sweetening the deal.

The amount of money that the Mets include to cover Beltran’s remaining salary of approximately $6 million also will influence the players they receive in return.

Not all teams covet draft picks, given the bonuses they command and the amount of time they take to develop. But most clubs would rather have them than not.

Indeed, the flip side of this discussion is taking place in the San Diego Padres’ trade negotiations involving closer Heath Bell.

The Padres want more than the value of two high picks in return for Bell, knowing that is what they would receive if they offered him arbitration and lost him as a free agent.

Potential suitors, however, might not want to meet such a price for 25 or so innings from Bell, then pay the bonuses for the draft picks once they lose him.

Of course, a team could always re-sign Beltran or Bell and avoid the draft-pick question entirely.

Easier said than done with Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, who prefers his clients to establish their values on the open market. 

The Twins: buyers or sellers?

I mentioned Saturday in my "Full Count" video that the Chicago White Sox still could end up sellers. Why not the Minnesota Twins, too?

The Twins are 15-15 in their past 30 games. They are seven games under .500, seven games behind in fourth place. As if that is not daunting enough, the team’s next four games are in Texas, where the Rangers are 33-19.

I know, I know — the Twins have a history of making second-half runs. But, seriously, do they look like a contender?

The answer sure does not appear to be yes.

The Twins have been looking for a right-handed reliever. They traditionally do not sell. But they’ve got several potential free agents they could move — hitters Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome, and reliever Matt Capps.

The value of Rasmus

One thing to remember this week: A player’s value is determined, in part, by his service time.

In other words, the further a player is away from free agency, the more difficult he might be to obtain in a trade.

Thus, if the St. Louis Cardinals are indeed thinking about trading center fielder Colby Rasmus to the White Sox, their return will need to be a whole lot higher than right-hander Edwin Jackson.

Two months of Jackson, a potential free agent, for three-plus years of Rasmus, who has yet to even hit arbitration, is not even close to fair value, even if Rasmus has regressed.

The Cardinals almost certainly would ask for a reliever in addition to Jackson, and I’m guessing the White Sox would receive other intriguing offers if they were willing to package say, Jackson and lefty Matt Thornton.

Which way, Rays?

The best guess still is that the Tampa Bay Rays will not trade right-hander James Shields. The team wants to compete next season and would remain formidable if its rotation included Shields, left-hander David Price and righty Jeremy Hellickson. In addition, Shields’ contract remains affordable and the Rays value his leadership.

That said, the performance of righty Alex Cobb and promotion of lefty Matt Moore, one of the game’s top pitching prospects, to Triple-A at least gives the Rays the flexibility to listen on Shields — this week, this offseason and beyond.

Cobb is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts. 

The Orioles: road to nowhere

Remember a few years back, when the Orioles thought they could put together a formidable rotation from a group that included Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn and Garrett Olson?

Didn’t turn out so well.

The concern now is that the Orioles might be headed in the same direction. Lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz and righty Chris Tillman are all back in the minors — and a scout who saw Matusz and Tillman recently said he was decidedly unimpressed.

Meanwhile, the Orioles’ best veteran starter, righty Jeremy Guthrie, leads the majors with 14 losses, in part because his run support is the sixth worst in the American League. Guthrie’s 4.33 ERA is not far above the league average of 4.24, and he pitches in the rugged AL East.

The Orioles are willing to move Guthrie if they can get young pitching back for him or find it in another deal. The Tigers and Cardinals are among the teams interested.

What will the Astros do?

The Houston Astros, awaiting the approval of a new owner, are at least making a show of being active, dispatching scouts to watch the Triple-A clubs of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves in recent days.

With Stephen Drew injured, the Astros could offer the Diamondbacks a stopgap shortstop, Clint Barmes. The teams, as Jon Paul Morosi of reported, also have discussed Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez.

The Astros-Braves possibilities would start with Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, a player in whom the Braves long have had interest. The Braves also like center fielder Michael Bourn, but more as a fallback plan if their pursuits of Beltran and others fail, according to one major league source.

The source downplayed any chance of a deal, calling it, "remote."