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Cards ink Beltran to 2-year dealPosted Thursday, December 22, 2011, at 9:05 PM
After two weeks of speculation and countless reports, the Cardinals have officially signed free agent All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal.
The contract, as reported by Derrick Goold from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, will guarantee Beltran $26 million over two seasons. It was also reported that Beltran was given full no-trade protection.
While taken at face value, some might be bothered by that, I really think this could be a smarter allocation of money than Furcal's new 2 year/$14 million deal.
Beltran, a 34-year-old outfielder who has not been without his share of injuries, began the 2011 season with the New York Mets before being sent to the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline. While he played only right field last season, his numbers were an impressive rebound from a pair of injury plagued seasons.
In 2011, Beltran batted .300 with a .385 on base percentage (OBP) and a .525 slugging Percentage (SLG). That's not bad for a guy many had already thought should be put out to pasture. While speed and range are a concern, especially with him filling in at centerfield, he should more than make up for any deficiency with his work at the plate. This year's numbers ranked among the best in the National League and there's no reason to see 2012 as anything other than more of the same.
In 2011, he smacked 22 homeruns with 84 RBIs. Beltran is also known for his quality at bats. While he drew 71 walks and 88 strikeouts last season, he did boast 598 plate appearances. That number, the team believes, shows that he is healthy and ready for another big year.
"Beltran is a proven outfielder who obviously has been a tough opponent against the Cardinals for many years." said Cardinals' Senior Vice President John Mozeliak in a Thursday evening press release. "It is going to be nice to have his bat and competitive nature working for us instead of on the other side of the field for the next couple of years."
The switch hitter is a career .283 hitter with 302 home runs and 1146 RBI. His 302 home runs rank 4th among switch hitters from his first full-season in the Majors (1999) to present. The 6' 1" outfielder has driven in over 100 RBIs in a season seven times, most recently in 2008 with the Mets.
Beltran is a six-time National League All-Star (2004, '05,'06, '07, '09, '11) and a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner (2006, '07, '08). He won the Louisville Silver Slugger Award in 2006 and 2007 with the Mets, seasons in which he had 41 homers and 116 RBI, and 33 homers with 112 RBI, respectively.
Beltran has made appearances in the postseason twice, in 2004 with Houston and in 2006 with the Mets. In both of those years, Beltran and his team faced the Cardinals in the League Championship Series, with the Cardinals advancing to the World Series each year. In 2004, Beltran set numerous MLB postseason records including a record-tying eight home runs and a ML postseason record with a home run in five consecutive games (Game 5 of the NLDS through Game 4 of the NLCS). That last feat is probably the most prominent Beltran memory in the minds of Cardinals fans. Hopefully in 2012 he can do the same thing, only wearing the right uniform.
The 2006 run he made with the Mets is likely best remembered by Wainwright striking him out to send the Cardinals to the World Series. That's a much fonder memory.
This signing, along with the retention of Rafael Furcal and the return of ace pitcher Adam Wainwright, leave the Cardinals as strong contenders to run away with the NL Central. While the subtraction of Pujols will undoubtedly affect the team, retention of a large portion of his offense, matched with an extreme increase in pitching depth is enough to show Cardinals fans that there is life after No. 5.
Incoming rookie manager Mike Matheny will walk into spring training in February with a lineup many veteran managers would kill for. If Wainwright is at least half of his usual self and the injury bug doesn't mar the team, I firmly believe they have a real shot at playing deep into October.
As is always the case, just like every other true fan, I welcome a new face with open arms and look forward to the changes that the coming season is going to bring for the Cardinals. I'll sit through the winter, watching my MLB Network (and the NBA when I need a break) and wait for the snow to clear and the day to arrive when pitchers and catchers FINALLY report to Jupiter, Fla.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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