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Beltre Is Considering All of His Free-Agent Options

Times Staff Writer

If it had to be somewhere other than first place, then second to Barry Bonds in Monday’s National League MVP balloting was fine with Adrian Beltre.

“Hopefully,” he said with a laugh Monday afternoon, “I can finish second every year. He’s probably the best baseball player ever. He’s something amazing.”

A month removed from a breakout season in which he led baseball with 48 homers, Beltre is recovering from ankle surgery and beginning to contemplate his preferences in free agency.

He said he and agent Scott Boras would meet soon with Dodger owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Paul DePodesta, perhaps by the end of the week, to discuss the future of the franchise and his place in it.

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Beltre, 25, batted .344 and drove in 121 runs for the Dodgers, and will undoubtedly be very popular in a free-agent class that includes third basemen Troy Glaus, Corey Koskie, Vinny Castilla and Tony Batista.

“No doubt, the Dodgers are going to have the first option,” Beltre said. “I don’t know exactly what they’re thinking about or what they’re going to do. I’m happy with the organization. I couldn’t ask for better treatment. Now is the time I have the choice to stay or go, but I’m not thinking about leaving yet; I’m thinking about my family and the chance to go to the World Series.”

The Dodgers would appear to be on the upswing, considering they won their first playoff game in 16 years last month. McCourt has insisted he would not cut payroll as DePodesta endeavors to rebuild a pitching staff and reinforce a lineup that often hung on Beltre’s at-bats.

It was the latter development -- Beltre posted career highs in all of the major offensive categories, just in time for free agency -- that placed Beltre so well among MVP candidates, behind Bonds, ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.

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From his home in Arcadia, Beltre praised hitting coach Tim Wallach for changing Beltre’s methods and preparation, and the Dodgers for sticking with him.

“Just the way the season finished and the way the fans supported me all year, I couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. “I cannot point to one thing that changed for me, though. A lot of things came together early this year. Being almost seven years in the big leagues, and the fact I have a daughter, my life has changed.”

Ultimately, he said, “I helped myself personally so I would get more attention from other teams. But I don’t know how it’s going to work out. When I pick the team, I know they want me and will have a chance to be in the playoffs. I’m just sitting back to see what my options are. But, until it happens, I don’t know how it’s going to end.”

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Close but No Cigar

Dodgers who have finished in the top 10 of MVP voting since 1989:

*--* Year Highest Dodger MVP 1989 None Kevin Mitchell 1990 Eddie Murray (5th) Barry Bonds 1991 Brett Butler (7th) Terry Pendleton 1992 None Barry Bonds 1993 Mike Piazza (9th) Barry Bonds 1994 Mike Piazza (6th) Jeff Bagwell 1995 Mike Piazza (4th) Barry Larkin 1996 Mike Piazza (2nd) Ken Caminiti 1997 Mike Piazza (2nd) Larry Walker 1998 None Sammy Sosa 1999 None Chipper Jones 2000 Gary Sheffield (9th) Jeff Kent 2001 Shawn Green (6th) Barry Bonds 2002 Shawn Green (5th) Barry Bonds 2003 Eric Gagne (6th) Barry Bonds 2004 Adrian Beltre (2nd) Barry Bonds

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