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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Mark Teixeira wants at least $184 mil – Red Sox back out of talks

According to a report by, free agent Mark Teixeira apparently is seeking a deal worth at least $184 million. And with that, the Boston Red Sox bid him adieu.

Mark TeixeiraRed Sox officials have maintained privately all fall that while they would love to have Teixeira, they are very comfortable going into 2009 with the team that they have, with Mike Lowell at third base, Kevin Youkilis at first base and David Ortiz as the designated hitter, backing strong pitching.

And if Teixeira were to sign with the Los Angeles Angels or the Washington Nationals or another team, the Red Sox would be in a position to take advantage of some of the free-agent bargains that have developed in this frigid economic climate; the asking prices for players like Derek Lowe are bound to drop, general managers believe, because there are so few teams willing to spend decent money.

One executive familiar with the meeting said the Red Sox were told that in order to get Teixeira, they would have to offer about $24.3 million a year over eight years — or a deal for about $195 million. The Red Sox walked out, and Henry issued this statement to the AP: “We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor.”

Not surprisingly, the Yankees have re-entered the Teixeira sweepstakes, although the Angels might be the front-runners in bidding for his services.

Yankees people were thought on Friday to be debating the merits of Teixeira vs. Manny Ramirez, Boras’ other available slugging superstar, and there may be a split vote in the pinstripe hierarchy. While they all love Teixiera’s all-around play and character, Ramirez may be favored by some for his unmatched clutch hitting prowess, unique ability to tweak the rival Red Sox and to draw attention and dollars, but especially because he’d require a shorter term (perhaps three or four years as opposed to at least eight for Teixeira).

Meanwhile, there are signs that the Angels, who were thought to be trailing Boston a few days ago with a bid in the area of $165 million, might be readying for a move now. Some Angels baseball people figured that $160-to-170 million might be owner Arte Moreno’s limit, but that doesn’t look at all clear now.

Wow. It’s amazing to think that Teixeira might be heading back to the Angels after many reports had him as a lock to wind up in Boston. You have to admire the Red Sox for setting a limit and not backing away from that. They know the Yankees are trying to drive up the price so they set their max and are prepared to walk if that’s not enough.

I still say the Yankees are just trying to screw their competition and aren’t a true contender to sign Teixeira. And after these reports, I bet he re-signs with L.A. in the $184-range.

Rafael Furcal pulls about face, stays with Dodgers

Two days ago it appeared that free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal would once again don an Atlanta Braves uniform in 2009. But the club Furcal left the Braves for in 2005 eventually came through with an offer more to his liking and now the most prized shortstop on the market is heading back to the Dodgers.

On Monday night, the Braves were under the distinct impression that they had a deal with Furcal. On Tuesday, the Dodgers re-entered the discussions, and by Wednesday afternoon the Dodgers and Furcal were hammering out the terms of an agreement, sources said.

The Braves on Wednesday were informed that Furcal would not accept their deal.

“When people deal with you in this manner, they lose credibility,” Braves GM Frank Wren said. “You don’t forget these things.”

According to Wren, this is how the situation played out:

· Wren reached agreement on the terms of a contract with Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer, on Monday night, pending the approval of Furcal.

· Between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, Wren spoke with Kinzer three or four times, negotiating the dollar amount, the years and terms of the vesting option, and other contractual details.

· Wren and Kinzer spoke again around midnight Monday night. Kinzer told Wren that he had not yet heard back from Furcal, but that Furcal was excited and that “we’re good.”

· On Tuesday morning, Wren woke up to a voicemail from Kinzer telling him to put a term sheet (the standard baseball term for an official contract offer) together.

· Wren went into his office in Atlanta, put the term sheet together and signed it.

· Shortly thereafter, Kinzer began “backpedaling,” saying he promised the Dodgers he would talk to them.

I don’t blame Wren for being upset because it looked like Furcal was going to be a Brave by the end of Tuesday. Then Wren wakes up on Wednesday and is told that Furcal is likely heading back to L.A. But that’s the business, I guess. Agents don’t care about the teams – they care about their clients and finding the best deals. It’s too bad it had to go down this way for the Braves.

Red Sox, Mark Teixeira getting closer to a deal?

According to FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, the Boston Red Sox are inching closer to signing free agent Mark Teixeira.

The Red Sox are making progress in their quest to sign free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, according to a major-league source.

“Headway was being made earlier today,” one source said.

A rival general manager whose plans could be affected by the Red Sox’s addition of Teixeira also indicated that a deal was getting closer.

Teixeira is the Red Sox’s No. 1 offseason target. They view him as the perfect fit for the middle of their order.

Teixeira is seeking a 10-year contract for at least $20 million per season. The Red Sox preference would be to sign him to a deal between six and eight years.

With CC Sabathia taken, Teixeira is now the biggest prize on the free-agent market. He hit 33 home runs and had 121 RBIs as a member of the Braves and Angels last season. Teixeira has never hit less than 26 homers in his six major-league seasons.

This would be a fantastic move for the Red Sox because they not only get a quality hitter, but a young quality hitter for the middle of their lineup. He might not have Manny Ramirez’s pop, but again, he’s younger and comes with less baggage.

Conversely, this would be a huge blow for the Angels, who have made Teixeira their number one offseason target. The Orioles and Nationals have also shown interest in the first basemen, although it appears that the only real suitors for his services are the BoSox and Halos.

A’s talking to Rafael Furcal – Giants a better fit?

Free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal is heading to Oakland to talk contract with the A’s according to the

Possibly demonstrating that he’s in the final stages of his decision-making process, Furcal, widely considered the top shortstop available in free agency, traveled to Oakland to meet with A’s officials. Accompanied by his wife, Glenny, and his agent, Paul Kinzer, Furcal stopped at the Oakland Coliseum, drove through neighborhoods where he might live and had lunch with A’s general manager Billy Beane.

Kinzer confirmed Furcal’s trip, which was initially reported by

“We just wanted to look around and see how [Furcal] felt about the area before he went further,” Kinzer told “He did like it, and he was fine with the area.”

Furcal, who’s coming off a three-year, $39 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is reportedly seeking a four-year contract. Kinzer was staying in the Bay Area overnight, indicating that he could conduct face-to-face negotiations with the A’s on Wednesday.

Furcal, 31, appeared in only 36 regular-season games last season due to a lower back injury. But that indirectly increased his free-agency value, since he didn’t play enough to qualify for the Elias Sports Bureau rankings and thus won’t cost the team that signs him a selection in next June’s First-Year Player Draft.

I might be naive, but I believe Furcal still has a lot to offer at this stage of his career. Injuries have sidetracked an otherwise bright future, but I think he knows this is it for him. He’s not going to land another big contact again and he knows he has to perform. I don’t know if heading to the AL is such a wise move, however. The Giants are also interested, and they might be a better fit considering they like to run and he wouldn’t block any top prospects.

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