Was it already seven years ago that Carlos Beltran was the hottest free-agent commodity on the market? Dang. You don't even need one of those cultural touchstones to put that into perspective -- "The last time Beltran was a free agent, Train released Alive at Last!!!" -- mostly because Beltran does it himself. He's no longer Carlos Beltran, Super Free Agent; he's Carlos Beltran, Risky Guy That Teams Want Without a Huge Commitment.
But he's still good. Quite good. Actually, if you go by OPS+, which adjusts for league and park, it was Beltran's best season. And teams are looking at him as an offensive upgrade -- the only middle-of-the-order hitter still on the market who can be had without a long-term deal. He's looking to decide on a new team before Christmas, and the teams linked to him thus far have been the Cardinals, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, but Scott Miller of CBS Sports adds the Indians to the mix:
The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision.
It's possible that the Indians could use Beltran as a DH, or they could put him in the outfield with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore. You can pencil those three in for four or five at-bats every game, easy. And by "game," I mean "month." But Beltran would be a fine addition to a lineup that was ravaged by injuries last year.
They're a long shot, though, and Jon Heyman now says that the Beltran market is "heating up," with the Cardinals the team in the lead, even though as Rob Neyer pointed out, the Cards are pretty well set at the corner positions. And if you're thinking Beltran can play center for St. Louis, note that Beltran is a center fielder like Michael Young is a shortstop. Them days is gone.
Money-on-the-table guess: the Red Sox have an open outfield spot, and Beltran's contract wouldn't go long enough to mess with their efforts to keep the team intact in the long term. But the Jays could sure use Beltran. As could the Rangers. And Cardinals. And Giants. And Twins. And everyone. Because Carlos Beltran is good. Please credit Baseball Nation as your source if you wish to mention that in something you're writing.
Update: Where were you five minutes ago, Cafardo? Where???
Red Sox out of Carlos Beltran hunt.