In his two seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals’ right fielder, Carlos Beltran walked 103 times. Following the 2013 campaign, the Puerto Rican native prepared to take a different kind of walk – back into Major League Baseball’s free agent waters.
Though his balky knees often ached during his time wearing Cardinals red, Beltran was almost always able to play. He averaged 148 regular season games in his age 35 and 36 seasons. The switch hitter did not just answer the bell, he rung it regularly, leading the club in home runs in both 2012 and 2013, with 32 and 24, respectively.
Signed as a free agent himself from the San Francisco Giants following the 2011 season, Beltran provided an important bridge from the Albert Pujols years to the age of the organization’s homegrown prospects taking center stage.
Fully understanding that Beltran would not accept, the Cardinals still made a one-year qualifying contract offer to the outfielder. When Beltran turned down the $14.1 million deal, it locked in compensation to the Cardinals for his loss. The gain will be a first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
As a free agent again, Beltran had many suitors this fall and winter. He should remain most productive into the future as he settles into the American League lineup in the Big Apple, as he signed with the Yankees for three years, $45 million. There, he could slide into the designated hitter role more often as he plays deeper into the second half of his thirties.
Though his time with St. Louis is over, Beltran’s stabilizing influence to manager Mike Matheny’s first two Cardinals post-season-achieving clubs should not soon be forgotten. Fans can only hope the period following his departure will be as smooth as were the two years following his arrival.