New York Mets' Carlos Beltran hits a double against the...

New York Mets' Carlos Beltran hits a double against the Washington Nationals during the first inning. (Sept. 8, 2010) Credit: AP

Up for Bidding?

We know who the big names will be in the free-agent season — Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth. But the trade market often takes a little longer to develop, and each player’s availability features more variables than does a free agent.

After all, a free agent has to sign somewhere, if he wants to keep playing. A team, however, doesn’t necessarily have to trade a player.

Just as a sneak preview, let’s investigate three big names and the likelihood that they’ll be dealt this offseason:

1 CARLOS BELTRAN, METS. The Mets are sending strong signals that they badly want to trade Beltran, one official from an American League club told us this past week. But we’ve seen this act before. The Mets talk big on relinquishing sunk costs, then they don’t pay the freight to unload someone. One difference here, unlike, say, Luis Castillo: There will be clubs interested in Beltran, who has played better recently, if the Mets pay enough of the $18.5 million they owe him. Boston, which intends to make Mike Cameron a part-time player, could be interested. So could St. Louis, which could deal Colby Rasmus.

Likelihood he gets traded, on a scale of 1 (no way) to 10 (absolutely): 6.

2 MATT KEMP, DODGERS. It has been a highly disappointing season for Kemp, in an equally distressing season for the Dodgers. Manager Joe Torre had clearly tired of him, resorting to benching him multiple times this year. One scout from an AL club compared Kemp (who is eligible for free agency after 2012) to the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano, in that both players lack baseball instincts and struggle to learn and improve.

Will new skipper Don Mattingly be more willing to deal with Kemp? Or will the Dodgers just look to wash their hands of him? They’d be selling low, undoubtedly.

Likelihood he gets traded: 4

3 ZACK GREINKE, ROYALS. The Royals have him signed through 2012, at $13.5-million salaries. He’s well off his Cy Young Award pace of last year, yet still a pretty good pitcher.

The Royals aren’t positive they’ll be highly competitive by 2012, so they would be open to a good offer for him, a person familiar with their thinking said. Plenty of teams — the Yankees, Texas, Detroit, maybe even Washington — would be interested.

Likelihood he gets traded: 5

Keeping it Real

The Mets’ Hisanori Takahashi, a nice signing last winter, has the right to become a free agent, thanks to his agreement with the Mets. He has said he wants to be a starting pitcher.

One AL scout, however, said, “Who’s going to sign him to start? Maybe a bad team, at the back end of their rotation. He’d be better off staying in the bullpen. He’s really good there.”

Takahashi had some early success as a starter for the Mets. Ultimately, though, hitters picked up on him during a second trip through the lineup.

Out of Sight

Nick Johnson hasn’t played in a game since May 7, and he has had two right wrist surgeries since then. Suffice it to say, his return to the Yankees didn’t work out at all. He’s in his Sacramento home, and he doesn’t plan to return to New York for the postseason. He’s rehabilitating, and this winter, he’ll go to Athletes’ Performance in Arizona to get back in shape. The Yankees and Johnson have a mutual option for 2011, but the Yanks won’t be exercising that.

Joe's Return

Joe Torre will be in New York on Nov. 11, when he’ll host the annual gala for his Safe at Home Foundation. The guest of honor will be Derek Jeter, as the Yankees’ 2000 World Series title over the Mets will be celebrated; Jeter might very well be unsigned at that juncture. Go to for more information.