Carlos Beltran has been a big key to the Cardinals' success. His contract will expire at the end of the 2013 season and, while the team and Beltran both say that they would like to figure out a way for him to stay in St. Louis, it would be surprising if the Cardinals brought him back.
The logistics just do not line up. Beltran would prefer a multi-year contract, and the team has top prospect Oscar Taveras presumably ready to step up to the big league level in 2014. Taveras has been a center fielder in the minor leagues but projects as a corner outfielder when he reaches the big-league level.
Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com took a look at the free agent profile for Carlos Beltran recently and projects the outfielder to reach a deal similar to the two-year deal he is currently on.
I'd expect that he can sign a similar contract this time around, perhaps with a slight raise given his overall solid production in St. Louis. A two-year, $30MM contract would give Beltran nearly the same guarantee that (Raul) Ibanez received over his three-year deal while minimizing the risk, in terms of contract length, for the signing team.
Should Taveras be able to handle center field, the team may take advantage of the situation by moving Allen Craig to right field and allowing Matt Adams to continue to play first base. Alternatively, Taveras could be slotted into right field immediately, leaving Jon Jay in center field and a logjam at first base with Craig and Adams.
The abundance of internal options gives the Cardinals the chance to fill Beltran's absence internally. The biggest variable is Taveras and whether or not he is ready to step in immediately. If not, the team may need to examine a short-term solution while he matures in the minor leagues.
No matter how they go about it, the first step to succeeding in 2014 will be to address the departure of one of the offense's biggest weapons.