New York Carlos Beltran let Saturday night's deadline to re-sign with the Houston Astros pass without an agreement, leaving the New York Mets in prime position to add the speedy center fielder.
Both the Mets and the Astros were on the telephone Saturday night with Beltran's agent, Scott Boras. While Houston had to sign him by midnight or lose rights until May 1, the Mets and other teams did not have that restriction.
Just after the deadline passed, Boras said he still was negotiating with New York. The Mets, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000, were trying to pull off a coup for the second time this offseason. They lured three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez from the Boston Red Sox last month with a $53 million, four-year deal.
By allowing the deadline to pass without an agreement, Beltran could be hoping other teams, such as the New York Yankees, resume their pursuit. The Chicago Cubs also are thought to be interested.
The Mets' last offer is believed to be for seven years and $112 million, with the Astros offering a seven-year, $105 million pact that is similar when the lack of a state income tax in Texas is considered.
In other news, Ruben Sierra, facing Saturday's midnight EST deadline, decided to remain with the New York Yankees, agreeing to a $1.5 million, one-year contract.
Backup first baseman Dave McCarty agreed to stay with Boston, agreeing to a minor-league deal that would pay him $550,000 if he was added to the major-league roster.
Pedro Astacio and the Red Sox didn't plan to continue negotiations Saturday.
The Los Angeles Dodgers failed to agree to a contract with Brent Mayne and lost negotiating rights with the 36-year-old catcher until May 1. Mayne indicated previously he probably would retire if the Dodgers didn't sign him.
The New York Mets agreed to a one-year contract with South Korean left-hander Dae Sung Koo, who pitched in the 2000 Olympics and spent the last four years with the Orix BlueWave in Japan's Pacific League.
Among players eligible for salary arbitration, Texas catcher Rod Barajas agreed to a $1.85 million, one-year deal.
Kevin Millwood finalized a $7 million, one-year contract with Cleveland. Millwood, 30, has three seasons with at least 17 wins and has pitched more than 200 innings four times, but spent last year battling elbow problems.
If healthy, Millwood would fit nicely into the No. 3 spot of the Indians' rotation behind All-Stars C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook.
Players weren't the only ones signing new deals.
Manager Tony La Russa agreed to a three-year contract extension with St. Louis after taking the Cardinals to their first World Series in 17 seasons.
The Cards also are close to a new contract for general manager Walt Jocketty.
La Russa, 60, led the Cardinals to 105 victories and the National League championship last season. St. Louis has been to the playoffs five times in his nine years with the club. The new contract will keep him in place through 2007, which would tie La Russa with Red Schoendienst for the second-longest tenure as the Cardinals' manager.