As the Cardinals try to choose a direction after the defection of Albert Pujols to Anaheim, one name keeps popping up on the radar screen: Carlos Beltran.
St. Louis appears to be a favorite to land its former arch rival. Beltran, who tormented the Cardinals during one post season with the Astros and then later was victimized by an Adam Wainwright curveball to end the 2006 NLCS, would look odd wearing the birds on bat because of history. But, because of circumstance, he might fit neatly into the St. Louis outfield picture.
Simply put, the Cardinals need a power bat for the middle of the order and Beltran wants to find a place to play where he could have a chance to win.
Beltran, a switch hitter, would likely start the 2012 season in right field. But when Allen Craig comes back from knee surgery he could settle into a three-man platoon between right and centerfield. He could play center against lefties to give Jon Jay a break and right field against tough righties to give Craig a break.
Beltran is a risky proposition because he's suffered through persistent injuries the last couple of years. But he hit .300 with a .385 on base percentage, 22 homers and 84 RBIs in 142 games. He hit .289 with the Mets. But once he escaped cavernous city field he hit at a .323 pace in 44 games with the Giants.
I am open minded about Beltran. I don't think we're going to get the guy who hit nearly .450 with eight homers in the 2004 playoffs. But I think the Cardinals could get a guy who produced at a pace similar to Larry Walker when he toiled in right field at Busch Stadium the last two seasons of his career.
The concern is not only the amount of money -- but the length of the contract that Beltran would want. The Giants reportedly wanted him back in San Francisco but couldn't afford Beltran's demands. So will St. Louis want to tie itself to a brittle, aging slugger who is 35, 36 and 37 years old with a big dollar deal? Based on recent dealings, I would say not.
SS Furcal (S)
CF Jay (L)
LF Holliday (R)
1B Berkman (S)
RF Beltran (S)
3B Freese (R)
C Molina (R)
2B Descalso (L)