Most of the biggest names around the MLB trading deadline are on teams that are listening, but not necessarily dealing. The Rockies will listen to offers for Ubaldo Jimenez. The Cardinals will listen to offers for Colby Rasmus. And when you accuse them of not listening, they'll get all indignant and say, "What? We're listening! We're listening!" But it's pretty unlikely that either of those players will be traded.
The New York Mets have the one trade piece, then, that a) everyone knows will be traded, and b) represents an upgrade for almost every contending team. As much as teams are being coy and downplaying the desire to overpay a rental, Carlos Beltran is having a fantastic season, hitting for average and power. There are 13 teams within four games of a playoff spot, and Beltran would improve the offensive output of every one of their outfields.
The catch is that Beltran has a no-trade clause, and it sounds as if he could be a little finicky about where he goes and what he does. On Sunday, he told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York that he's not excited to go to a team that would like him to play center field or DH. And he's really not a big fan of the American League at all.
ESPN's Jayson Stark takes it a step further, citing a friend of Beltran's who says the outfielder has told the Mets that he wants to go to one of only seven National League contenders. With eight teams within four games, that would likely leave the Cardinals as the odd team out, as Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are limited to the corners, where Beltran would prefer to play.
The Mets are willing to eat most of the $6 million remaining on Beltran's contract in order to get better prospects, though that kind of scratch could buy a lot of international free agents, or buy out the college commitments of amateur players who drop in the draft because of those strong commitments. It could also go into the Jose Reyes war chest for the offseason. So while the team is publicly stating that the quality of the prospect is more important than the salary relief, there are arguments to be made in favor of the Mets taking either route.
Beltran's apparent refusal to waive his no-trade clause for an AL team would take out at least two suitors, and possibly more. The more teams in the mix, the more likely it is that one GM will panic, overpay, and wake up in the back of a Greyhound bus in the morning, wondering where his wallet, keys, andare.
Even with everyone knowing that the Mets want to trade Beltran, and even though he has a full no-trade clause, the Mets still have a surprising amount of leverage because Beltran would make a lot of teams significantly better without a prohibitive financial commitment. So the game of chicken will go down to the wire (or possibly a day before the wire), and even if Beltran will approve a trade only to an NL team that puts him in a corner-outfield spot, there isn't a shortage of those sorts of teams eager to acquire him.