Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine4
Could a Beltran Reunion Be Looming?
It was announced today (via NYDN) that St. Louis Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal would miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery to repair his damaged elbow. Furcal, 35, is on the receiving end of the surgery after months of attempted rehabilitation proved fruitless to his efforts. Former Met Ronny Cedeno is a candidate to step into the vacancy left by the former All-Star, but there may be more of a connection to the Mets than Cedeno alone.
The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals look like a much different club than the 2011 World Champion Cardinals. Major contributors Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Kyle Lohse and Albert Pujols have either departed for other pastures or gotten bit with the injury bug. The losses of both Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal mean that the Cardinals will be tasked with playing the waiting game in determining if this season will be a transitional year.
The Cardinals would have been faced with an issue even if the injury bug hadn’t hit: The immense depth that their current outfield carries and determining who might be the odd man out. Matt Holliday is a lock for several years, and Jon Jay will be patrolling center. Right field is going to prove to be a different story, with Carlos Beltran entering his walk year and top prospect Oscar Taveras making himself impossible to ignore.
Taveras, 20, has yet to play a single game above AA-Springfield, yet his performance in Spring Training is turning many heads that he may be close to being big league ready. While it’s important not to overrate what one sees in March, Taveras is 9-27 this spring (.333) with two home runs and two doubles. Although he has only walked once, he holds a career .381 OBP over four full minor league seasons and is an offensive monster (321/.381/.525 for his career). Baseball-Reference’s new Spring Training Tracker allows for us to view the competition that Taveras has faced this spring, and his 8.3 OppQual score associates best with a AAA level of pitching. The Taveras Train is rolling along, and Beltran appears to be on his way out the door because of it. It’s just not likely that he’ll be replaced until July, but the time is coming.
Assuming that Carlos Beltran doesn’t suffer an injury, there will be many teams lined up to secure the soon-to-be 36-year-old veteran. Beltran posted a MVP-caliber first half in 2012 with St. Louis, but tailed off in the second half while still ending up with a very impressive .269/.346/.495 line.
Two years ago, the San Francisco Giants shipped Zack Wheeler to the Mets in exchange for Beltran before the trade deadline. In 2013, Beltran shouldn’t be as expensive with the new CBA no longer allowing teams to receive compensation for a free agent after he walks if he was acquired mid-season. If the Mets are faced with making a deadline decision this year it’ll be because their starting rotation pitched to their ceiling and the offense was able to hold their own as well. Barring any magic, an outfield of Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill/Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Marlon Byrd won’t be mistaken for a trio of All-Stars. To fill a void with a familiar middle-of-the-lineup force who wouldn’t deplete the farm and potentially help a second half push would be big for the club to prove that they’re financially stable and willing to take a chance.
There’s no guarantee that the Cardinals will be looking to move Beltran, just like there’s even less of a guarantee that the 2013 Mets will make a move for him. However, if poised with a situation where the need for an impact bat arises in the dog days of summer, there would be no better story than Beltran rejoining a club with Zack Wheeler and trying to push toward a Wildcard spot.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron