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Carlos Beltran has some tough choices to make

St. Louis Cardinals free agent slugger Carlos Beltran has some interesting questions to ask himself as he choses where he'll play in 2014 and beyond.

Beltran wants a World Series ring, he wants a three-year contract and he wants to have plenty of playing time to make a final push for the Hall of Fame. It doesn't look like he's going to find all of those things in one place.

The Boston Red Sox made an early push for Beltran. As the defending World Series champions with the core of their team coming back for a title defense, Boston might offer the best chance at an elusive ring. But Boston seems reluctant to go more than two years for the 37-year-old hitter. And David Ortiz is firmly entrenched as the BoSox designated hitter. So the idea of going to the American League to save his aging knees isn't necessarily a benefit here. A ring would probably increase Beltran's chances of getting into the Hall of Fame. But maybe not if he is perceived as a bench player.

The New York Yankees would like to grant Beltran's lifetime wish of playing in The House That Sort of Resembles the House that Ruth Built. But New York is in rebuilding mode with Mariano Rivera calling it a career after 2013 and Derek Jeter hanging on by a thread. The Yankees' window to win could come after Beltran has retired. Then there is the issue of Alex Rodriquez. If he manages to get out of his suspension, which is currently under appeal, he'll likely spend a lot of time at DH, lessening Beltran's chance to play there. Playing in front of New York writers could only hurt Beltran who played for the New York Mets in his prime, likely making a stronger impression on Hall of Fame Balloters then than he would now.

Beltran's original team, the Kansas City Royals, would like to have him back and supposedly the folks at Kaufman Stadium are willing to jump in and go three years. But the Royals aren't exactly post season players. Beltran could get a chance to DH all he wants and pile up the at-bats. But he'd be signing off any hope he had to win a championship. Unless Don Denkinger comes out of retirement, that is. Kansas City also doesn't do much to enhance Beltran's Hall of Fame case because people there already think of him as the long lost love who got away. But at least he'd return as a conquering hero.

Cincinnati has emerged as a dark horse in the Beltran derby. The Reds play in a homer haven, have a chance to be competitive and are in what Beltran calls his preferred league, the Senior Circuit. But Cincinnati is up against it in the payroll department. They likely can't afford to re-sign Sinn-Soo Choo. Can they afford Beltran?

I still wish there was a way the Cardinals could bring back Beltran. He's a leader on the field and off. But the signing of Jhonny Peralta likely eliminated any chance of a reunion. It's not that the Redbirds couldn't afford Beltran. But, since the club didn't have to make a trade to land a shortstop, no one has been cleared from the right field/first base log jam in St. Louis. Allen Craig, Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras will by vying for playing time in two spots. And Peter Bourjous, Jon Jay and Shane Robinson could figure into that picture, too.

If I had to guess, I think the favorites to land Beltran are:

1) Yankees

2) Red Sox

3) Royals