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Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals' corner bats

Seen in motion, Carlos Beltran's outfield defense is somewhat less awkward than this.
Seen in motion, Carlos Beltran's outfield defense is somewhat less awkward than this.

Over at Baseball Nation Rob Neyer makes an entirely reasonable point that I have almost completely ignored in my rush to include Carlos Beltran in my 2012 mock Cardinals batting order and imagine one of those years where he stole bases nearly as efficiently as Tyler Greene and also had 70 extra-base hits. Entirely reasonable point: Carlos Beltran was a corner bat last year; the Cardinals have, counting up Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and Lance Berkman, three of those guys already, which is the maximum number allowed by National League law.

Given those stipulations, I don't think the Cardinals should go after Carlos Beltran, who's likely to command a superstar salary over a Jake Westbrook-sized commitment. Also given those stipulations, I don't think they would be going after Carlos Beltran.

Much of my enthusiasm for this deal centers on my faith in John Mozeliak as a competent general manager—specifically, my faith that he's going aggressively after Carlos Beltran after having confirmed that Beltran would be willing (and confirmed with his scouts that he'd be able) to play center field at least on a part-time basis.

In 2010 he did it and was basically fine there; in 2011 he made a much-publicized move to right and did it with some enigmatic comments split between prolonging his career and thinking he could still play center.

The ideal alignment for the Cardinals' corner bats and Jon Jay—the one in which this deal would make sense to me—is this: Holliday playing every day, Beltran playing nearly every day, Craig and Jay splitting time in the outfield based on where Beltran is positioned. That leaves Beltran in center against most left-handers—the good side of his platoon split—and in right against a lot of right-handers, and it gives both Jay and Craig plenty of playing time given the apparent fragility of Berkman at first and Beltran in front of them.

If this is a move to push Craig into a conventional fourth outfielder role—well, it doesn't make a lot of sense. But my position has always been to hope that it wouldn't make a lot of sense to Mozeliak, either. Used as a right fielder Beltran is blocking Craig at the moment the Cardinals would be best served by Craig emerging as a full-time bat; used in something like the Josh Hamilton role Beltran is both a major offensive upgrade and a novel solution to the problem of depth posed by starting both Craig and Jay every day.