Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals end the perfect contract perfectly

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Beltran didn't win the World Series, but things could hardly have gone better.

One: Carlos Beltran didn't win the World Series either year of his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Two: It became clear almost immediately that Carlos Beltran was not going to serve as the Cardinals' backup center fielder, as we'd hoped during the offseason after he'd signed it.

Those were the downsides of Carlos Beltran's two year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals; we're already done.

Perfect Beltran (00-04) 154 594 111 171 32 10 29 102 37 4 .288 .365 .521
Mets Beltran (05-10) 124 463 82 129 30 2 22 82 16 3 .279 .366 .499
Slugger Beltran (11-13) 146 540 80 156 32 3 26 88 6 3 .288 .356 .503

Since his gaudy age-23 season, Carlos Beltran has been losing his speed—and/or the ability and willingness to use it—in huge chunks, and he began his career so talented that that's only been an existential threat to his career when "speed" isn't what's in question so much as standing upright. The Carlos Beltran the Cardinals ended up with was a stationary 35-year-old slugger who ran like he'd once been a stationary 25-year-old slugger.

That was, granted, a little disappointing. Not disappointing because it was realistic to expect him to steal 31 bases in 32 attempts like he did 13 years earlier, but because it's hard to watch Carlos Beltran run like he was never fast. But he found plenty of value in it. Beltran hasn't learned to become a high-OBP slugger, like most 35-year-olds with his mobility have always been; his walk rate last year was somehow the worst of his career.

But the remaining skills are basically undiminished by age, and when the Cardinals signed him to a two-year, $26 million contract the only question was whether they'd stay that way long enough to pay his way. They did; he was gimpy, but he never got gimpier.

The only question once he didn't get gimpier was whether the good feelings would be so pervasive, by the end of the contract, that the Cardinals would risk spoiling their perfect two-year contract with an extension. They didn't; he's a fixture around the rumor mill for seemingly every other playoff contender, but not the Cardinals, who added an exclamation point to the deal by earning themselves a compensation pick in next year's draft.

The downsides to Beltran's contract are incredibly easy to pinpoint, and just as easy to roll your eyes at.

The upsides take longer to process. For two years Carlos Beltran was one of the strongest hitters in the Cardinals' lineup, and not-infrequently seemed like the only guy who was hitting home runs in it. Despite some slumps and a kind of understandable perpetual near-gimpiness, he ended up playing 296 out of a possible 324 regular season games.

He was a good player who was paid like a good player and comported himself like the great player he used to be. He outplayed the contract the Cardinals gave him, and now he's moving on to do the same thing someplace else. It's a shame he didn't get a ring, but it's hard to feel better about a veteran and his contract than I feel about Carlos Beltran on his way out.

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