Kansas City, Mo The Kansas City Royals are probably going to trade Carlos Beltran by July 31, and that's a shame.
On the one hand, moving the stylish center fielder who everyone knows can't wait to escape Kansas City makes sense.
But sometimes being smart is a matter of doing the wrong thing at the right time.
Without a doubt, Beltran is outta here the minute his obligation to the Royals is up following the 2004 season. He and agent Scott Boras are salivating to see what a young five-tool athlete the caliber of Carlos Beltran will command on the open market.
That's why Beltran turned down a three-year, $25 million offer from the Royals.
His asking price, if he keeps up his recent pace, would be high. Going into Thursday afternoon's game, the switch-hitting smoothie had turned in seven multi-hit games in his last nine outings, going 18-for-33 with three doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs. His average had climbed to .319.
He's already had three 100-run and 100-RBI seasons, and, at 26, is just now coming into his prime.
Trading him now instead of next year would probably assure the Royals of getting full value for one of the most talented and complete athletes the club has ever produced. Any team that acquired him next season would know it's only getting a one-season rent-a-player.
But there's another, deeper dimension to what's going on in Kansas City. Baseball is fun again. Fans who long ago tuned out are tuning back in.
Citizens who haven't experienced a pennant race in 10 years or hosted a postseason game in 18 are checking the box scores every morning and planning a trip to the ballpark.
The big four-game series with Minnesota this week, in which Beltran was the main offensive weapon, has restored the Royals to a full-blown pennant race.
Fan interest -- it's what the organization has been working toward, hoping for, hungering after.
Players are talking about how much fun it is. Fans are abuzz over their young, hustling team.
No matter how much sense it makes from a business point of view, this is not the time to move out one of their best two players and throw cold water on all that fire.
Now's the time to seize the moment. Build on this growing excitement. Fans are circling the bait, beginning to nibble.
So plant the hook and reel them in. Stay in the race as long as possible.
Or, trade Beltran now and watch the air go out of the balloon.
Unless the team could maintain the level it has reached through mid-June without him, and that seems highly unlikely, trading Beltran would send a terrible message.
All those newly interested fans would say it's just business as usual at Kauffman Stadium. True or not, that's how most fans would see it.
Plus, there's another reason to make the most of this year's good start. Has anyone forgotten that Mike Sweeney's unusual contract has a clause that lets him void the last three seasons if the Royals do not reach .500 this year or next?
Wouldn't it be nice to hit that important break-even mark this season and not have it hanging in the air like a bad odor next year?
Keep Beltran. Letting him go now might bring three prospects. But wait and move him next year for two.
Wouldn't it be nice to generate all that good will?