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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rumor Mill: Red Sox like Carlos Beltran, but not the price

The Red Sox's position on New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran has not changed, despite reports that Boston is aggressively pursuing him.

The Red Sox have made known their interest to the Mets, but at this stage are unwilling to part with the type of top-tier prospects New York is seeking in return, according to a Red Sox source.

And as much as they would like a right-handed bat, the Red Sox may have more pressing needs to address, especially on the pitching side, with three-fifths of their starting rotation out of action and reliever Bobby Jenks on the disabled list for a third time.

"We're interested in Beltran, but the price would have to be sensible," one Red Sox source said Wednesday, reiterating the position Boston maintained from the outset. "We lost a lot of good prospects for (Adrian) Gonzalez and want to protect our better minor leaguers."

Another major league source with ties to Beltran also expressed doubt that the veteran outfielder will wind up in a Boston uniform.

"I don't think they make a hard play," the source said.

The Red Sox have also thrived despite a season-long slump by right-fielder J.D. Drew (.223, 11 extra-base hits) and no production from his right-handed hitting complement, Mike Cameron, who was traded to the Marlins.

Thus the interest in Beltran, though that interest has been tempered by the emergence of Josh Reddick. The 24-year-old outfielder on Wednesday supplanted Drew in the starting lineup, a move that even Drew acknowledged could become permanent.

"I want to get things rolling," Drew said Tuesday night, "but this team has to win ballgames. I want to see another postseason. Tito's got a decision to make. For me, it's a matter of getting to where I'm swinging the bat well, in whatever role. They'll figure it out."

Instead of Beltran, and the price in talent he would command, the Red Sox could look for a veteran off the bench like a Ryan Ludwick, or decide that Darnell McDonald, who is batting just .160, might prove a satisfactory complement with more playing time. There's also the possibility that Reddick, batting .533 (8-for-15) in limited action against lefties, plays every day.

ESPNNewYork.com, among others, has reported that the Mets would be willing to absorb the remaining $6 million of his contract if they get top prospects in a deal.

The Mets have been "heavily scouting" the Red Sox's minor league system, according to another league source, spending significant time at Triple-A Pawtucket, Double-A Portland and Class A Salem.

Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi has spent the last couple of days in Portland scouting the Sea Dogs, the source said.

The players the Mets are interested in, according to the source, include outfielders Reddick and Ryan Kalish (shoulder and neck injuries), shortstop Jose Iglesias, pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Felix Doubront and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. In other words, the best the Red Sox have to offer.

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