No Pujols, no problem: Cardinals sign Beltran at bargain

This whole not having Albert Pujols retire with the St. Louis Cardinals thing keeps getting easier and easier. It was announced on Thursday that former Cardinal killer Carlos Beltran signed with St. Louis on Thursday with the signing being announced sometime after the holidays.

A free agent outfielder who most recently played for the San Francisco Giants after being traded from the New York Mets last year, Beltran hit a combined .300 for the two teams with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs in 142 games.

Pujols, who I’m beginning to feel more sorry for than hate with all my heart, signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Dec. 8 after 11 Hall-of-Fame years with the Cardinals. Wait a minute; Pujols will be making $25.4 million dollars a year. I don’t feel sorry for him.

Yeah, Pujols signed a 10-year, $254-million deal with the Angels when the Cardinals confused the Pujols’ family with a 5-year, $130-million deal. I’m not saying that the Cardinals shouldn’t share some of the blame for not retaining Pujols, but they did eventually up their offer to 10-years, $220-million, but Pujols decided to take the $3 million more a year to be an Angel, thus ending his tenure with the Redbirds.

The reason I thought about feeling sorry for Pujols is when he starts to decline, which the process has already started when he didn’t bat at least .300 or knock in at least 100 runs for the first time in his career this past season, is that the Angel fans won’t be as sympathetic to Pujols as Cardinal fans would have been when the dropoff becomes apparent.

That and the fact he won’t be finishing his career with the team he started it with. Pujols would have broken many Cardinal all-time records and was just 36 home runs away from being No. 1 on the list, which he would have probably broken next year.

So, with all the money the Cardinals will be saving because Albert decided it really was about the money, St. Louis has some room to work with, and they have been working. The Cardinals will apparently sign Beltran for two years for $26 million. This is a steal for the Cardinals if Beltran can produce to his capability and doesn’t spend too much time on the disabled list.

Yes, Beltran will be 35-years-old a month into the 2012 season and is past his prime, but his 2011 numbers are encouraging .

Beltran started his career and spent his first six seasons with the Kansas City Royals where he won the Rookie of the Year award in 1999. Since then, Beltran has been a six-time all-star, a three-time gold-glover in center field and had at least 100 RBIs in a season eight times in his career.
In his 14 MLB seasons, Beltran has a career .283 average and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .857. Any OPS over .800 is really good. He has 302 career home runs, 1184 runs, 1146 RBIs and 293 stolen bases. Another five solid years for Beltran, and you’re talking Hall of Fame – maybe not first ballot like Pujols, but HOF nonetheless.

In 2004, the Royals traded Beltran to a playoff-bound Houston Astros team, a team that featured the Killer B’s of Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and current Cardinal Lance Berkman. In those playoffs, after Beltran hit .455 with four home runs and nine RBIs against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, Beltran continued his assault on Cardinal pitching smacking another four home runs and a .417 average in a seven-game series loss to St. Louis. I remember wondering why the heck we were pitching to this guy. Beltran signed on with the Mets the next year for seven years and $119 million.

Beltran is a switch-hitter with pop. He is projected to play right field for the Cardinals next year and bat second in the batting order. That would make the Cardinals’ 2-3-4 hitters as Beltran, left-fielder and right-handed batter Matt Holliday, and new first baseman, switch-hitting Lance Berkman.

Outfielder Allen Craig was going to have the right-field duties until he had knee surgery that may have him back sometime in May. Right now, left-handed hitting Jon Jay will be manning center field, but what will the Cardinals do when Craig gets back?

Jay had a very solid year for St. Louis in 159 games last year. He hit .297 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. The right-handed Craig hit .315 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in just 75 games last year.

If Craig can stay healthy, which he isn’t really doing right now, then it will be a no-brainer of what the Cardinals will do. Even with Beltran’s bad knees, I bet he could still play center field. If not, Craig had limited action in center for St. Louis last year. Either way, Jay will be the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder and that’s a solid option off the bench.