I’m not saying Carlos Beltran is as good as Albert Pujols, but…
Carlos Beltran had a higher batting average than Albert Pujols last season. He had a higher OPS and a higher OBP too. He had more 10 more doubles. Pujols had a significant edge in home runs, 37-22.
It would be silly, silly, silly to argue that Carlos Beltran is as good as Albert Pujols. But last season when Beltran was healthy, he showed that he’s still capable of being an elite player.
If we’d had this conversation six years ago, Beltran would have been right there with Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols and a couple of others in the conversation about baseball’s best player.
But he missed 179 games during the 2009-2010 seasons and was pretty much forgotten until having a big comeback year in 2011.
At 34, he’s just three years older than Pujols, and last season he batted .300 with 39 doubles and 22 home runs.
But he’s not Pujols. His 1.037 career OPS is the sixth-highest of all-time, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial and Willie Mays.
Still, Beltran is a great signing for the Cardinals if he can stay healthy. He will not fill the hole left by Pujols’ signing with the Angels, but he can hold his own.
The Cardinals played the market carefully after losing Pujols, and it could be argued they should have done nothing until letting the first few months of next season play out.
By that time, their needs could have been more defined. But they obviously got comfortable with Beltran’s asking price, and now if Adam Wainwright is healthy and if Beltran and Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday can stay on the field, the Cardinals will be favored to win the National League Central.
This off-season has been a tough one for defending champions. First, Tony La Russa retired. Then Pujols left.
But as spring training approaches, they’re back in a familiar spot: the team to beat.