Mets cross fingers on Beltran

As Carlos Beltran balances his offers and waits for possible others, the Mets remain hopeful their bid is the one that ultimately brings him to New York. <P> New York is banking their chances for the 27-year-old upon a seven-year, $112 million contract offer that was presented to Beltran and agent Scott Boras this week.

The Mets have not commented publicly on their pursuit of the centerfielder except to acknowledge that GM Omar Minaya and principal owner Fred Wilpon led a pack of executives to Puerto Rico this week, and the Houston Astros declared yesterday that they'd made their final offer to Beltran, believed to be seven years at $105 million.

"We feel it's a good offer," Astros GM Tim Purpura told The Associated Press. "But to go any further wouldn't be prudent for the future of our organization."

If Beltran does not agree with the Astros by midnight Saturday, Houston will lose all rights to negotiating with him until May 1.

That would not necessarily preclude Beltran from holding out longer with the Mets if he and Boras decide that the Astros are out of the running, especially since word is the Yankees are pondering a run having completed a two-year extension with Randy Johnson. The Cubs are also known to be interested, but probably can't take on Beltran's demands without dealing Sammy Sosa first.

Beltran has emerged as the most important part of New York's winter in recent weeks, as Minaya has sold ownership on the merits of bringing in a young, exciting face to build around.

If the Mets do not sign Beltran, they are widely believed to be gearing for a run at first baseman Carlos Delgado, who has been disappointed with lackluster attention on the free agent market.

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