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Beltran expected to decide this week

The Cardinals are likely to know by Christmas if they'll be able to add slugging outfielder Carlos Beltran to their arsenal for 2012.

The free agent, according to Yahoo Sports, has told the five or six clubs that have offered him contracts, that he expects to make up his mind where he plans to play for the next two or three years by the end of the week.

The Cardinals have been dubbed favorites to land Beltran by some experts. But the fact that the Blue Jays weren't the top bidder for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish means that they have a lot more money to spend than they might otherwise have had. I guess it comes down to what Beltran wants more -- a chance to win or the most money.

My understanding about the Cardinals thinking on Beltran is that they were hoping to get him for $10 million or so a year for two seasons. But his asking price seems to have reached $12 million plus for three seasons. Would it hurt the Redbirds to sign him and be tied to him beyond 2013 when the 2012 and 2013 free agent classes seem to be much better than what's out there now.

There has been some local speculation that the Cardinals have been lurking in the weeds on Prince Fielder. But I haven't heard a peep about that from any of the national writers. So I basically don't know what to wish for. If the Cardinals signed Fielder, he'd be worthy of making a long-term commitment as a franchise centerpiece. But if they signed Beltran, he could be a boon or a bust depending on his health. And he could keep the team from getting a better, younger player later. So do the Cardinals pass on Beltran and risk getting nothing if they can't snag Fielder?

It would be a shame if the Birds couldn't add a bat to fill the Albert Pujols void because they have a real shot at making a run to defend their World Series crown if they did. Unfortunately, the departure of Pujols didn't put an end to the Cardinals' identity crisis. I don't think even they know if they should take what they'll get, or if they will be a major player in the future for potential franchise free agents.

I guess, when it comes down to it, I'm a Cardinal in the hand sort of guy. If the club can get a player who gives them a chance now, I want him. But that doesn't change the fact that I am nervous about paying Beltran for three years.