St. Louis Cardinals sign Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal

New York Mets batter Carlos Beltran (R) is congratulated by teammate Jason Bay (44) after Beltran scored his second home run of the day, a two-run homer, against the Colorado Rockies in the seventh inning of their MLB National League baseball game in Denver May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The St. Louis Cardinals knew they weren’t going to be able to replace the most productive player in franchise history in one fell swoop. But netting Carlos Beltran at least somewhat softens the blow of losing Albert Pujols this winter.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals have reached a two-year, $26 million contract with Beltran. The free agent outfielder batted .300 with a .910 OPS and 22 home runs in 142 games this past season for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. He was traded to San Francisco at the deadline for top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler, but he suffered a wrist injury that kept him out a few weeks and the Giants stunk down the stretch. (On a related note, it’s perplexing why the Giants didn’t even attempt to re-sign Beltran when they foolishly gave up their best minor league pitching prospect for what turned out to be a three-month rental.)

Beltran is expected to start in right field but he could move to center once Allen Craig recovers from offseason knee surgery. Craig told reporters earlier this week that he expects to be back by opening day, but the Cardinals will just have to wait and see how his recovery goes. The club also has John Jay, who will start in center when Beltran is playing right and will provide depth once Craig returns.

Considering Beltran was also fielding offers from the Indians and Blue Jays, this is a nice short-term risk for a St. Louis team that badly needed a bat with the departure of Pujols. Again, Beltran isn’t going to make anyone forget about the former St. Louis superstar, but at least he fills a void in the middle of the lineup. The biggest concern is whether or not he, Matt Holiday, and Lance Berkman can stay healthy. If they can – and if Adam Wainwright can recover from Tommy John surgery – then there’s no reason to think the Cardinals won’t make another run at the postseason this year.

Losing Pujols dramatically alters the club’s lineup, but give general manager John Mozeliak credit for landing one of the top names on the free agent market this winter.

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Cardinals take game 1 over Rangers

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday (7) hands relief pitcher Jason Motte (30) the ball he caught to make the final out after game 1 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium on October 19, 2011 in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 3-2. UPI/Brian Kersey

The St. Louis Cardinals won game one of the World Series 3-2 over the Texas Rangers. Tony La Russa seemed to have the magic touch as each of his moves worked perfectly in a tight game. In the sixth inning, La Russa sent out pinch hitter Allen Craig to hit for starter Chris Carpenter, and Craig got the game-winning RBI single.

From there, the Cards’ bullpen took over, and now they have game one.

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