For the first thirteen years of his MLB career Carlos Beltran was part of any discussion about the game’s top center fielders. Eventually, like many others before him, injuries and age started to catch up to him and he simply wasn’t able to handle the responsibilities of the position defensively anymore, necessitating a move over to right field during the 2011 season. Yet when the St. Louis Cardinals signed the now 35 year old prior to last season to a two year deal, they reportedly were considering Beltran an option in center field.
That option is no longer on the table, according to notes passed along from Jennifer Langosch at MLB.com. Manager Mike Matheny reportedly mentioned Sunday that the team will not consider Beltran as an option in center field this year. The move is presumably an effort to keep Beltran healthy but will likely affect the team’s remaining roster as they’ll need to have a backup available. As Langosch points out, the team could look longer at internal options Shane Robinson, Adron Chambers, and non-roster invitee Justin Christian. All three have limited experience in the Majors over parts of the past three seasons. Chambers would presumably be the front-runner of the group.
Fortunately for the Cardinals the team already has a solid center fielder in place in Jon Jay. He’s been reliable defensively, every now and then making a play reminiscent of the days that Jim Edmonds patrolled center field in St. Louis. Jay’s a .300/.359/.414 hitter over the past three seasons and won’t reach free agency until after the 2016 season. Provided he can stay healthy whomever serves as his backup shouldn’t expect to see much time in center field.
Limiting Beltran from consideration in center field is likely the best course of action for his health, but in the grand scheme of things it won’t play a vital role in the team’s season so long as they don’t have to endure the loss of Jay for an extended period of time. If such a situation does arise, the production stemming from the team’s corresponding roster moves will ultimately be telling. If those moves don’t pan out, some of the blame could deflect back on Beltran for being unable to handle the role any longer. It’s all speculation and “what ifs”, but still something to consider.
Beltran is a career .282/.360/.496 hitter, with 334 HR and 1,243 RBI. He’s a former Rookie of the Year, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and seven-time All Star. When healthy he’s a solid right fielder and arguably among the National League’s best, but he’s no longer a center fielder.