About a year and a half ago, the Cardinals were in a bind, they had just lost their icon, Albert Pujols, to the Los Angeles Angels and needed to find someone to replace him. Two weeks later, they signed Carlos Beltran. Little did they know at the time, but in the 1 1/2 season since then, Beltran would actually out produce Pujols, hitting .282/.347/.512 with 50 homers to Pujols' .275/.338/.491 with 43 homers.
Now that Beltran is facing his own contract year with the Cardinals, there has been a general groundswell of support for signing Beltran to an extension.
It started with Beltran's own admission that he wants to stay in St. Louis, saying "I really love playing here. There's no doubt about it. I experienced something here last
year that I hadn't experienced in a long time. It was a good clubhouse
and so many good people, playing in front of these fans. They really
support you when you do well and when you do terrible. It's a great
feeling. Playing in a city like this, it makes everything easy."
From there Bernie Miklasz jumped on the bandwagon, saying "put me in the pro-Beltran camp, at least for now."
He has since been joined by the likes of Corey Rudd (StlSportsMinute.com) and Cardinals fans on message boards.
It seems like every Cardinals fan believes the team should bring back Beltran...except me.
I think it would be a mistake for the Cards to bring Beltran back, for the following reasons:
Beltran turns 37 next April 24 and while his age may not show in his current stats (.308/.349/.546), you can see it taking a toll on his body. Knee problems may have led to his poor second half last season and he wasn't 100% at the start of this season due to a broken toe.
As we saw with Lance Berkman, after the Cardinals signed him to an extension after his stellar 2010 season, a player past his prime with previous knee problems is a high-risk proposition.
In addition, unless you are a 'roid enhanced guy like Barry Bonds, baseball skills generally decline with age. So, while Beltran may be performing well this season, the chances of a repeat are slim.
The Outfield Logjam
Heading into next season, the Cardinals could have 5 players--Matt Holliday, John Jay, Oscar Taveras, Allen Craig and Matt Adams vying for 4 spots (including first base). Add Beltran to that mix and things really get crowded.
Taveras, when healthy, looks like he can step in and contribute right away. Other than his first season with the Cardinals Dominican League team, Taveras has hit above .300 each season and is starting to show the power that everyone has said would come. Between him and Adams, the Cardinals should be able to replace a good portion of the offense that Beltran has provided.
As Bill Baer of ESPN points out, the Cardinals have played it smart when building their teams over the years. General Manager John Mozeliak has, mostly, "eschewed expensive, long-term free-agent
contracts in favor of young, cost-controlled players from within the
organization, short-term free-agent contracts and contract extensions for key players such as catcher Yadier Molina."
Beltran is an example of a short-term free-agent signing by the Cards and while it might make some sense to bring back Beltran on another short-term (preferably one year) contract, what it really comes down to is...
Beltran is making $13 million this year and it would probably take a similar amount to bring him back for another year. After signing Adam Wainwright to a 5-year, $97.5 million extension in March, the Cardinals are probably looking to save money elsewhere and Beltran is one luxury they can do without.
Take that money and apply it to other areas of need, such as shortstop or some bullpen help, and the Cards will come out ahead, just like they did when Pujols left.
Bottom line, unless Beltran is willing to take a one-year deal at a steep discount, that both limits the Cardinals risk while also allowing them to address other areas of need, the Cardinals should thank him for his service to the team and move on after this season.