Beltran, Cardinals agree to 2-year contract

Carlos Beltran and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals
agreed to a two-year contract pending results of a physical, a move
that would fortify the team’s lineup following the departure of
Albert Pujols.

The team disclosed the agreement Thursday night and said it
expects to make a formal announcement shortly after the
holidays.

KMOX, the Cardinals’ flagship radio station, reported the deal
is for $26 million over two years – the same figure cited by a
person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to The Associated
Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because financial
details of the agreement were not announced by the team.

The 34-year-old Beltran batted .300 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs
and a .385 on-base percentage for the New York Mets and San
Francisco Giants this year. He likely will be the opening-day right
fielder for the Cardinals next season. Lance Berkman is expected to
move to first base, taking Pujols’ spot.

Beltran and Berkman are switch-hitters, giving new manager Mike
Matheny lineup flexibility.

Earlier this month, St. Louis re-signed shortstop Rafael Furcal
to a two-year, $14 million contract and added left-handed reliever
J.C. Romero with a one-year, $750,000 deal. The Cardinals appear to
need only a few spare parts to finalize the roster.

After Pujols signed a $254 million, 10-year contract with the
Los Angeles Angels, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said he
expected his team’s payroll to perhaps exceed this year’s total of
$110 million.

Allen Craig, coming off an impressive postseason, gives the
Cardinals another strong option in the outfield but will miss at
least the first month of the season while recovering from knee
surgery.

A six-time All-Star, Beltran began his career with the
cross-state Royals in 1998, three years after Kansas City drafted
him in the second round. The switch-hitter has a .283 career
batting average with 302 home runs and 1,146 RBIs.

”Beltran is a proven outfielder who obviously has been a tough
opponent against the Cardinals for many years,” St. Louis general
manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. ”It is going to be nice
to have his bat and competitive nature working for us instead of on
the other side of the field for the next couple of years.”

Beltran faced the Cardinals in a pair of NL championship series,
in 2004 with Houston and 2006 with the Mets. St. Louis won both
series despite several big hits by Beltran.

With a chance to put the Mets in the World Series, however, he
struck out looking to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against Cardinals
right-hander Adam Wainwright.

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.