Looks like the 'Stros could have had him if they had added a no-trade clause. news services
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have reached an agreement in principle to sign center fielder Carlos Beltran, the best position player available in the free-agent market this winter, to a seven-year contract worth $119 million.

The sides agreed that the deal will include an $11 million signing bonus, an Associated Press source said on condition of anonymity.

New York and Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, still had to work out how to structure his salaries for each season and any deferred payments, the source and another person involved in the talks said, also on condition of anonymity.

Beltran is expected to undergo a physical Monday and sign the deal Tuesday. A news conference likely would take place Tuesday.

Beltran, who helped Houston come within a victory of its first World Series last year, will became the 10th player in baseball history to agree to a deal worth $100 million or more -- and the first to switch teams for a nine-figure contract since Jason Giambi got a $120 million, seven-year contract from the New York Yankees in December 2001.

A source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that the talks with Houston fell through Saturday night because the team would not give Beltran a full no-trade clause. Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, were OK with the seven-year, $108 million deal from the Astros. But the offer included a "limited" no-trade clause -- a stipulation that turned out to be the fallout of those talks.

The source also told Olney that despite numerous calls from Boras, the Yankees never submitted an offer for Beltran.

The Mets, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000, were on the verge of completing their second coup of the 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.

Because Beltran became a free agent and rejected salary arbitration, under baseball's rules Houston had to re-sign Beltran by midnight ET Saturday or lose rights until May 1.

"The serious parts of this only happened in the last six hours," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "Really, I think we ran out of time. Mostly, it's time and distance. Certainly I regret the fact that we didn't deal with some of these things earlier -- but we didn't control the pace of the negotiations."

Astros officials said an agreement was difficult to get in place Saturday night because of the logistics involved: Team staff was at the ballpark, owner Drayton McLane was at his home in Temple, Boras was at his home in Newport Beach, Calif., and Beltran was in Puerto Rico.

It's been a tough offseason for the Astros. All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent signed with the Dodgers, pitcher Wade Miller was let go and signed with Boston, and All-Star outfielder Lance Berkman severely hurt a knee playing flag football, an injury that will cause him to miss the start of the season.

Also, Houston is trying to persuade Roger Clemens not to retire. Clemens, 42, has said he would make a decision this month. But McLane said Saturday he believes Beltran's departure doesn't ensure Clemens' exit.

"I certainly hope not and I don't think so," McLane told The New York Post. "Roger said that we would get together. He's been in Hawaii and he's coming home this weekend. I feel very confident that we'll be able to reach an agreement with Roger. We'll move on to Roger next week."

"Certainly we will welcome Roger back," Purpura said. "We're not going to shift into a rebuilding mode because of this."

Clemens, who won his record seventh Cy Young Award in his first season with his hometown team, already has agreed to salary arbitration. If he exchanges figures with the Astros on Jan. 18, he could ask for a record amount, topping the $18.5 million request Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter submitted before the 2001 season.

Purpura said the candidates to replace Beltran in center will most likely be Jason Lane, minor-league prospect Willy Taveras or Craig Biggio, who held the position before Beltran joined the team. He also said Houston had not ruled out a trade to upgrade the spot.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.