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Carlos Beltran is the player on the list that no one, seemingly including Beltran and the Cardinals, wants to see go. He arrived in St. Louis prior to the 2012 season with a two-year, $26 million contract. He has been a leader on the field and in the clubhouse and a fan favorite.
Why would the team part ways with him, then? There are actually a few reasons, but most of all it comes down to the arrival of baseball's top prospect, Oscar Taveras. In addition to the young outfielder preparing to make his major league debut, Beltran will likely seek a mutli-year contract, and the Cardinals may be scared of going back down that road.
Lance Berkman was a key part of the Cardinals in 2011 and turned that into a contract extension to keep him around through 2012. The 2012 season saw Berkman yield to his age as injuries caused him to play in just 32 games. Berkman's breakdown may cause Mozeliak concern when dealing with Beltran.
Beltran will reach the open market as the Cardinals continue to get younger and allow prospects to take over key roles on the field. MLB Trade Rumors took a look at his free agent profile to gaze into a crystal ball and predict his upcoming contract:
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 Ibanez received over his three-year deal while minimizing the risk, in terms of contract length, for the signing team.
Beltran figures to be the only current Cardinal to receive a qualifying offer prior to free agency, yielding the team draft-pick compensation when he signs with his new team.
Where will he end up? Carlos Beltran will look most attractive to an American League team that can use him as a designated hitter as well as in the outfield. The Kansas City Royals are continuing to get more competitive and are rumored to be shopping their own designated hitter, Billy Butler, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. It would be a homecoming for Beltran and the leadership the Royals need.