Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Future of Carlos Beltran

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Carlos Beltran has given the St. Louis Cardinals two phenomenal seasons. He’s hit .288 with 55 home runs and 167 RBIs. After a couple of seasons struggling with injuries, he’s bounced back and carried the Cardinals with him. Because of his phenomenal performance, there has been a recent (and well-warranted) desire to keep him around for another year or two.

That said, there’s a pretty good argument for not resigning him in the off-season, and I want to outline it today. As a point, I love Carlos. I love watching him play. He’s a beast, and I would love to keep him around, but at the same time I think that it’s important to examine this pragmatically.

The original idea was that Oscar Taveras would get a September call-up this year and we’d discover that he was even better than Beltran, so he’d take over in 2014. Since that’s not going to happen, there’s been a little bit of panic.

The most compelling argument is that he won’t be cheap. After putting up impressive numbers, there will be a pretty big market for a right fielder like Beltran (especially in the AL, where he could convert to a switch hitting DH should his knees fail him once and for all). Designated hitters with similar numbers are making about 15 million a year. I’d say that the Cardinals have had him at a bargain price for 13 million a season due to his prior injury trouble. Now that he seems healthy and happy, many contenders should be interested in him.

Should the Cardinals resign him, they would have significantly less money to go after a shortstop or a center fielder. Because the Cardinals lack obvious and immediate choices for these positions in their farm system, the free agent market seems to be the way to go, and with players such as Jacoby Ellsbury (my personal off-season pipe dream, although I wouldn’t pay as much as he’ll want) and Shin-Soo Choo on the market, a little extra money wouldn’t hurt anything.

In addition, Carlos has had injury problems in the past, and he is 36 years old. Perhaps he has 2 or 3 more great seasons left in him, but I doubt that they will be worth 10 to 15 million dollars a piece. If St. Louis could sign him for 2 years and 10 million dollars, I’d have a very different opinion, but I don’t think that’s going to a possibility.

Additionally — and I know that this will be a shock — the Cardinals don’t need a right fielder. With Allen Craig capable of playing there and Matt Adams deserving at least a shot as a starter, the Cardinals are set at right field. And, although Taveras will not be coming up this year, that doesn’t rule him at as a viable candidate next year. Perhaps he’ll impress us all and wind up as a starter, but he certainly will serve as a solid bat off of the bench.

Again, I don’t want to run Beltran out of town or suggest that I don’t love him as much as the next guy, and I am admittedly a bit wary of letting a proven veteran go in hopes that rookies will perform well. Nonetheless, I doubt that St. Louis will be able to afford Carlos, and I don’t think they need to sell the farm in an attempt to keep him around.

Certainly, as Mozeliak has said, it remains an option worth looking into, but I would be inclined to shop around some in order to fill more pressing needs before signing Carlos to a large, multi-year deal.

As per usual, I am not the Cardinals’ GM, and I don’t get to make such decisions, but I do think that it would be unwise to ignore the possibility of letting Beltran walk.

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