Ask a Cardinal fan about Carlos Beltran and one of two things usually come to mind. His 2004 NLCS performance, when he hit 4 home runs in seven games, or his 2006 NLCS-ending strikeout at the hands of Adam Wainwright‘s curveball. With Allen Craig possibly out for the first month of the season, St Louis appears to be in the market for another outfielder, and Beltran’s name keeps popping up. Would he be a fit in St Louis?
With Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center, the Cardinals would slot Beltran in right. Beltran has spent the majority of his professional career patrolling center field, sliding over to right only last season. Whether he was a competent corner defender is somewhat ambiguous. He saved 1 run on the Dewan plus/minus scale, ranking 13th amongst right fielders, making him average. By UZR/150, on the other hand, he posted a -9.2, which would be below average. By way of comparison, Lance Berkman cost the Cardinals 10 runs in right per Dewan, and was -10.2 by UZR/150.
So should the Cardinals bring Beltran in they would get a defender not much better than Berkman was last season.
At this point of his career, however, St Louis would not be signing Beltran for his defense, but rather for his bat. Beltran is still an elite offensive player. He has not posted an OPS+ less than 100 since 2005. Last year he posted an OPS+ of 152 while splitting the season between pitcher-friendly Citi Field and pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. He’s hit the ball particularly well in limited action at Neo-Busch. Beltran has appeared in 12 games since the stadium opened in 2006, posting a .340/.407/.681 line. Granted, he wouldn’t have the luxury of facing Cardinal pitching anymore, but regardless he seems comfortable hitting in the ballpark.
Beltran probably won’t command $19 million like he did his last 3 seasons in New York, but it’s not unreasonable to think he’d at least command Rafael Furcal money ($6 or $7 million for next season). For that kind of salary, one has to wonder if the Cardinals would cede the starting RF position to him and relegate Craig back to the bench. That in and of itself would be a tragedy; for if Craig proved anything in the post-season, its that he is ready for a full-time job in the Majors.
So does Carlos Beltran fit on the Cardinals team? Probably not; not for the money it will take to sign him. No GM in their right mind is going to pay someone $7 million to be a bench player.