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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
by Mike Thomas
What Does Beltran's Future Hold?
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Carlos Beltran has recently said that he wants to play three more years in the major leagues. And, why not? Beltran just recently appeared in his 8th All Star Game, is batting .306, eighth in the NL with a .525 slugging pct., and fifth in the NL with 19 home runs. At age 36, he is still producing at a high level. Beltran is still searching for that elusive World Series ring that he's fallen short of several times. The Cardinals denied him in the seventh game of the NLCS in 2004 when he was with the Astros, and again in 2006 when he was with the Mets. Beltran joined the Cardinals before last season, but again fell one game short of the World Series.

Hopefully, 2013 will finally be the season for Carlos Beltran to be on a championship season. Either way, his contract is up at the season's end. Beltran was signed in the aftermath of Albert Pujols leaving, for 2 seasons at $ 26 million. The Cardinals will have an interesting decision to make on Beltran this offseason. Should they try to re-sign him, or should they open up a spot for Oscar Taveras(or even Matt Adams with Allen Craig moving to right field)? Could they make Taveras the fourth outfielder next year, put Taveras in center and Jon Jay on the bench, or will they start him in the minors if Beltran was re-signed? Also, how long would the Cardinals sign Beltran for? I don't think they will give him a three-year contract, but a season or two could be possible.

Taveras has been limited to 46 games in Triple A this season due to various injuries. He had exceptional seasons in 2011 in Single A and in 2012 in Double A. Even with the injuries this season, Taveras has hit .301 in Memphis. He will surely be ready for the big leagues in 2014. I could see John Mozeliak re-signing Beltran for another season and having him be Taveras' mentor. It would be a good experience for Taveras to be under the wing of a player who could be a Hall of Famer someday. That been said, there's a good possibility some other team could offer Beltran a better deal. Especially, an American League team where he could DH. Beltran likes playing for the Cardinals and may be willing to take a lesser deal to stay around. But, its hard to envision a scenario where he would get a three-year deal with the Cardinals.

Beltran has been a bargain for the Cardinals and has been an All Star both seasons in St. Louis. He led the team with 32 home runs last season and currently leads the club with 19 home runs this year. Beltran has even put up slightly better numbers than Pujols over the last season and a half. At a lot less of a contract burden. Pujols contract was backloaded and he has only earned $2 million more than Beltran during the last two seasons. However, Pujols' deal jumps up to $23 million next year and goes up a million per year every year until the deal expires in 2021. Beltran's short term deal was a way wiser investment than Pujols burdensome ten year contract. Here's a quick comparison of the past two seasons.

                 AVG   OBP   SLG   GP   AB   R      H    2B   HR  RBI   SB

Pujols        .273    .336   .485   248   976  132  194  69    46    163    9

Beltran      .283    .344   .507   237   884  135  250  39    51    152    15

Besides a desire to win the World Series, Beltran also has a chance to make the Hall of Fame. He may not be there yet. A couple more big season would give Beltran a big boost. Comparing him to players of the past, Larry Walker hasn't gotten much support for the Hall and Bernie Williams has gotten even less. It yet to be seen if Jim Edmonds will get in since he retired in 2010. Center fielders are under-represented in the Hall of Fame. Beltran was a center fielder most of his career, and won three Gold Gloves in center. He moved to right field in 2011. On baseballreference.com, they list Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield as the most comparable players to Beltran at age 35.

Dawson and Winfield are good comparisons to Beltran. They were Gold Glove center fielders early in their career and where switched to right field(and later DH) later in their careers. Dawson's last All Star season was in 1991 with the Cubs at age 36. Like Beltran, he made 8 All Star teams, but also won an MVP in 1987. Dawson had a respectable year at age 37 in 1992, hitting 22 home runs and driving in 90. He then went to the Red Sox to DH, later going to the Marlins as a part time player before retiring in 1996. Dawson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010 on his ninth try. Dawson was a big time run producer, but some critics pointed out his career .323 on base pct. Beltran's career OBP is 36 points higher. Both Beltran and Dawson stole over 300 bases in their careers and won multiple Gold Gloves.

Winfield was able to play at a high level for longer than Dawson was. Part of the reason why is that Dawson played 11 seasons on the turf in Montreal. Winfield only played 222 career games at center, much less than Dawson or Beltran. Winfield's last All Star campaign was also at age 36 with the Yankees in 1988. He missed the next season, but returned in 1990 after being traded to the Angels. He was a regular outfielder until he joined the Blue Jays in 1992 to DH at age 40. Winfield had a big year, finishing 5th in MVP voting and helping the Jays make the postseason. Winfield struggled in his first postseason with the 1981 Yankees, but came up big with the Jays in 92 as they won the World Series. Winfield ended up with over 3,000 hits and made the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2001. Below, it a comparison of Winfield, Dawson, and Beltran's career numbers

                  AVG  OBP  SLG   AB      R        H        2B   3B    HR   RBI    SB   GG  ASG

Winfield    .283   .353   .475  11003  1669   3110   540   88   465   1833   223   7      12

Dawson     .279   .323   .482   9927   1373   2774   503   98   438   1591   314   8       8

Beltran      .283   .359   .498   7651   1319   2167   429   76   353    1298  308   3       8

Beltran's rate stats are either tied or slightly better than Winfield and Dawson's. His counting numbers are not as impressive, but would look better with a few more seasons. Beltran debuted in 1998 and is in his 16th season(15th full). Dawson played 21 seasons and Winfield played 22 seasons, a significant amount more. Beltran was a five tool player when he came up with the Royals and won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year. Beltran has never won a MVP, and his highest finish was 4th in 2006 with the Mets. He received MVP votes in 5 other seasons. 400 home runs is a realistic possibility for Beltran. A World Series ring would certainly boost his candidacy. He still probably won't be a slam dunk candidate like Winfield was. It will be interesting to see where Beltran plays next year. Will the Cardinals have a role for him next year or will he move to an AL team with a longer deal?

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