With his contributions both on and off the field, Beltran has quickly become a beloved member of this team. He’s said on multiple occasions (one here via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com) that his preference is to stay in St. Louis, but he understands the nature of this game.
He still wants to play and will likely be looking for a much longer deal than the Cardinals will be willing to offer. It’s also been reported that Beltran wants to continue being an everyday player.
He doesn’t believe he’s reached the time in his career when he should be placed on backup duty—and he’s right.
He still has some gas in the tank and shouldn’t be expected to burn it out as a backup just because it would be nice to see him retire in St. Louis. Rumors from the New York Daily News this week have tied Beltran to the New York Yankees as a possible 2014 destination.
While he has been huge for this team, the Cardinals can still survive and thrive without him. Here are a few reasons why.
The Craig/Adams dilemma
The dispute over the last year regarding how to juggle Beltran with Matt Adams and Allen Craig will work itself out if he goes elsewhere this winter.
Sure, it’s a big bat to replace, but the ability to have both Craig and Adams in the lineup everyday will more than make up for it.
Both players have earned the right to be everyday players at this level. 2014 should afford them that opportunity.
While he hasn’t had a glowing season, it’s important to remember that the most exciting bat through the Cardinals farm system since Albert Pujols is almost ready to make his debut.
Oscar Taveras, the 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, has had his five-year ascension through the system preceded by a reputation that will be hard to live up to.
Where will Beltran play in 2014?
Named the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season, injuries have slowed his progression. He tried multiple times in 2013 to return from a nagging ankle injury that eventually put an end to his season.
When he’s ready to make the transition to the big leagues—likely in 2014—Taveras should be a key factor in moving beyond the Beltran era if he does, in fact, leave via free agency.
The Pujols loss
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that it was believed the Cardinals could never survive the loss of Albert Pujols. Beltran replaced Pujols' offensive numbers on his own.
Unlike with the Pujols loss, the Cardinals already have the offense in place to handle the loss of Beltran.
With that said, there are some things that you can’t just “replace.” Beltran’s record of October dominance, for example, will leave when he does. The same can be said for his leadership.
He’s definitely a special player, and his time in St. Louis will always be looked on fondly by the fanbase, but if he leaves don’t expect the Cardinals to close up shop.
They have ample talent on the roster. Expect the Cardinals to stay every bit as competitive as they are right now and possibly even more.