A's acquire Dotel; Royals get 3 prospects

Star center fielder Carlos Beltran was traded from Kansas City to the Houston Astros on Thursday night as part of a three-way deal that also sent closer Octavio Dotel to Oakland.

The Royals wound up with three prospects: highly touted third
baseman Mark Teahen and right-hander Mike Wood from Oakland, and
catcher John Buck from the Astros.

"This is obviously huge for our organization," Astros general
manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "Carlos Beltran is one of the most
exciting, complete players in our game today.

"He's the prototype we've been looking for for a long time.
He's going to be a very exciting force for us in the middle of our
lineup," he said.

Beltran can become a free agent this fall -- but for now, he
joined a team clearly going all out this year to win its first World Series.

The Astros spent millions last offseason to bring pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to Houston. Clemens, who already ended
one brief retirement, agreed only to a one-year deal, while
longtime stars Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are nearing the end of
their careers.

Last week, the Astros traded right fielder Richard Hidalgo to
the New York Mets for reliever David Weathers and a minor league
pitcher. This time, Houston pulled off a much bigger deal.

"When you have a chance to get an All-Star like Beltran, you do
it, then you worry about filling in holes. He significantly makes
us better, he is an impact player and will have an effect on our
ballclub," Hunsicker said.

The multitalented Beltran is hitting .278 with 15 homers, 51
RBI and 14 steals.

"I feel pretty good about this. Obviously, it's bittersweet," Royals general manager Allard Baird said.

"It was obvious we were not going to be able to sign Carlos.
But I think we've helped this club and gotten some players that
should have very productive major league careers," he said. "I'm
going to bring Buck and Wood to the majors right away."

Buck was hitting .300 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 227 at-bats for Houston's Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans.

Wood, 24, was 11-3 with a 2.80 ERA for Triple-A Sacramento and
will be called up to the Royals on Friday. Wood didn't figure to
get much of a chance to start with the A's, who have a talented

"Mike was having a tremendous year," Beane said. "Given the
state of our current pitching staff, this is a reward for him and
what he's done."

Teahen, 22, was hitting .275 with eight doubles and 10 RBI in
20 games for Sacramento. He was promoted after hitting .335 for
Double-A Midland.

Beltran's arrival almost certainly means yet another position
change for Biggio, who started his career as catcher, moved to
second base and then center field. Biggio will probably move to
left, with Lance Berkman shifting to right.

The 27-year-old Beltran, the biggest prize on the trade market,
is making $9 million this season. He's represented by Scott Boras,
who usually does not have his players re-sign before testing the
free-agent market.

"It's been a crazy day, with a lot of ups and downs. It was a
very challenging day for all of us," Hunsicker said.

As part of the trade, the A's also received cash from Kansas
City, an amount under $1 million. Oakland was looking for help at
the back of the bullpen.

"At the time I went to bed it didn't look like this would get
done," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "There were other
possibilities. To Gerry's credit, he said, 'We have worked so hard
on this one. It would be a shame if we don't get it done.' "

Dotel, 30, is 0-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 14 saves in 17 chances in
his first year as a closer following the trade of Billy Wagner to
Philadelphia in the offseason. The four losses have all come at
home, where Dotel has a 3.72 ERA. He has been tougher away from
hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park with a 2.35 ERA.

Dotel, who is making $2.8 million this year and is eligible
for arbitration after the season and free agency after 2005, is a hard thrower with 50 strikeouts in just 34 2/3 innings.

"He has a great arm, an electric arm," Beane said. "That's
what you like to see at the end of the game. He misses bats."

Oakland's relievers entered the day with a 4.74 ERA -- fourth
worst in baseball -- and Arthur Rhodes had struggled mightily in his
first season as a closer. Rhodes had blown five of 14 save chances
and had a 5.28 ERA.

Manager Ken Macha had stopped relying exclusively on Rhodes to
preserve ninth-inning leads, but Chad Bradford and Jim Mecir also
had failed to satisfy Oakland's needs. The bullpen has more blown saves (14) than saves (13).

"It's not that we had our eye on Dotel. It was a case of
finding a guy in that position and role that's both available and
also affordable," said Beane, adding it was the most
time-consuming deal he's made in seven years as Oakland's GM.

"Face it, it's hard to find a premier guy at the end of the
game that's going to be available. There are very few guys who fit
that bill.

Minus Dotel, Brad Lidge becomes the Astros' closer -- for now. Lidge saved Clemens' 10th victory on Thursday night.

Asked if Houston might bring in a veteran relief ace, Hunsicker
cracked a smile and said: "We'll see what tomorrow brings."