Christmas comes early as Cards sign Carlos Beltran

The Cardinals added their final piece for the 2012 team last night when they signed Carlos Beltran. It appeared the Cardinals were in on Coco Crisp, and while his 49 steals in 2011 would have been nice, his .314 OBP wouldn’t have. I love this move. Beltran may be on the wrong side of 30, turning 35 on April 24th, but it shouldn’t be that big of a concern. The Cardinals signed Beltran for 2 years for $26 million, and while it may seem a little high, it won’t be if Beltran can just repeat his 2011 stats. Beltran played for the Mets and Giants last year, ballparks not friendly to hitters and put up 22 HR’s, 84 RBI’s, a .300 AVG, a .385 OBP and a .910 OPS. Beltran had a 4.4 WAR in 2011. Albert Pujols had a 5.1 WAR in 2011. Speaking of Pujols, isn’t everyone happy we can now move on with a team that are the favorites to win the NL Central in 2012?

With Allen Craig out for the first few months, the move to sign Beltran was a necessity. It would have been disappointing if the Cardinals decided to try use the light hitting Skip Schumaker as the everyday RF’er until Craig came back. There’s no guarantee that Craig will be the same in 2012 after surgery on his knee. If Craig does come back and play like he did at the end of 2011, the Cardinals have the best of both worlds, as they will be able to rotate Lance Berkman, Craig and Beltran, making sure all of them are fresh. Signing Beltran enables the Cards to do a lot of things in 2012. First, Skippy is going to be what he should be, a 4th outfielder on a good team. Daniel Descalso will get every opportunity to prove himself at 2B, and the Cardinals can find out if Jon Jay is ready for a full year in CF. I’m not sold on Jay yet, but at least the pressure won’t be on him to be a big focus of the offense.

As it stands now on paper, I would have say that the Reds are back in business as the Cardinals closest competitor for the NL Central in 2012. Adding Mat Latos was a huge deal for the Reds. The Brewers still have great starting pitching and will be there as well, but they lost some key pieces other than Prince Fielder (signed with Mariners) and a possible 50 game suspension for Ryan Braun. While not the most notable losses, they did lose Takashi Saito and Latroy Hawkins in the bullpen. The Brewers gave up too early on Casey McGehee IMO, but they did sign Aramis Ramirez.

The 2012 Cardinals will take them as far as the health to key players allows. Will Berkman be able to repeat his 2011 performance? Will the ankles of David Freese hold up? Will Adam Wainwright return to form after TJS? Will Chris Carpenter’s elbow and shoulder be ok after the massive amount of innings pitched in 2011? If these things don’t go the way the Cardinals hope, keeping Pujols wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. I’m glad he’s gone, and I’m glad the Cardinals invested the money they would have paid him in Beltran and Rafael Furcal.

As hard as it is to repeat in MLB as World Champions, the Cardinals have legitimate shot, and adding Beltran gives them a better chance. I can’t think of a team in my lifetime that I was more eager to see play than the 2012 Cardinals.

When Baseball America’s 2012 farm system rankings come out soon, the Cardinals will be in the top 10. With 5 draft picks in the first and supplemental first round in the upcoming draft, they will be able to continue to build on that. It’s a good time to be a Cards fan for the immediate and long term, and the Cardinals are executing their plan in a very successful manner. A lot of appreciation should go to John Mozeliak and Bill Dewitt Jr. for the job they have done this offseason and the planning they have done for the future. Just a few days ago fans were complaining about the signing of J.C. Romero and talks of “low hanging fruit” were brought up on sports talk radio. Romero isn’t the same flamethrower he was, but he gives the Cards that second LOOGY in the bullpen. If anyone can get him back on track, it’s Dave Duncan.

Mike Matheny now has a complete team to work with in his first year as manager. The Cardinals are going in to the 2012 season with the best up the middle defense they’ve had in a while, aside from the weak arm from Jay. If health is a non-factor, expect to see Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Carpenter’s stats to be better than they were in 2011 because of the improved defense. With a steady offense, the Cardinals will be able to take it easy on Wainwright’s IP. Descalso and Furcal will get to a lot more balls than Ryan Theriot and Schumaker did, and the strong young arms in the bullpen will rarely give up a lead. The Cards have Shelby Miller on the way if injury sidelines someone, and there’s plenty more pitchers in the minors moving closer.

Once again, congratulations to Mo and Dewitt. They could have sit on the money and drew over 3 million fans in 2012 without signing Beltran and Furcal because the Cards were coming off a WS Championship. They didn’t, and in my honest opinion, the 2012 team is going to be better than the one in 2011. The Cardinals may not win the WS again, but the best team doesn’t always get to that point, as the playoffs are something of a crapshoot. The Cards didn’t give up a draft pick in signing Beltran, and if everything goes as planned, it will be hard for the Cardinals to not have a farm system in the top 5 in 2013. Some youngsters will make it, some won’t. The important thing is to have a deep enough system to fill holes through trades while their stock is high without depleting the system.

The Cardinals had a plan and stuck to it. Pujols took the money and ran. The Cardinals are better off without him, and for those who doubt that, you won’t have to wait much longer to be proven wrong. The Angels will be in the playoffs in 2012, and Pujols will help their cause. He’ll get all the attention if they go deep in the playoffs, but it will have more to do with Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren than Pujols. The Angels have a great team, and now arguably have the best starting pitching staff in MLB, but the Cardinals now have the flexibility to do many more things, and it started with not investing nearly one fourth of the payroll in Team Pujols.

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One Response to Christmas comes early as Cards sign Carlos Beltran

  1. WainwrightandMiller says:

    J.D.,

    Love the Beltran signing!!!!!!!!!!

    12 in ’12!!

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