ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Beltran headed into the offseason open to a return to St. Louis but also clear in his desire to sign a multiyear deal. It came, then, as no surprise that Beltran turned down the Cardinals' one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer on Monday.
The Cardinals were prepared for Beltran to reject the offer, knowing that at 36 years old, Beltran would prioritize the length of his next contract. His positioning as one of the most attractive free-agent outfielders on the market this winter sets him up to receive such interest from other clubs, too.
"Not overly surprising," general manager John Mozeliak said of Beltran's decision. "Obviously, you look at the last couple years he's had, it only makes natural sense to go test that free-agent market. As far as where that leaves us and Carlos, I still think it's a situation where the door is open, but we haven't made any decisions either way. In time, we'll see."
Mozeliak's assessment of the right field situation a week ago, though, suggested the Cardinals are prepared to bow out of the bidding. It would seem that the Cardinals' depth at the right-field position does not necessitate that the club invests long-term in someone else to play the position.
With All-Star Allen Craig and top prospect Oscar Taveras available to slide into the position Beltran filled for the past two seasons, the Cardinals can turn their attention (and financial resources) elsewhere this winter as they seek to improve on a 97-win season and National League pennant. In two seasons with St. Louis, Beltran averaged 148 games played with a .282 average, 28 doubles, 28 homers, 90 RBIs and a .836 OPS.
Beltran's decision does, however, net the Cardinals an extra selection between the first and second rounds of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. That ensures the Cardinals of two of the top 44 picks in the Draft, though the placement of those picks will invariably slide up as other teams lose selections when signing players who declined qualifying offers.
This marks the second straight offseason in which the Cardinals have secured Draft compensation by offering one of their free agents a qualifying offer. Last year, it was Kyle Lohse who turned down a one-year, $13.3 million offer; he eventually signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Brewers. With that extra pick, the Cardinals selected high school left-hander Rob Kaminsky in the Draft.
Beltran was one of 13 players to receive a qualifying offer this month. Each of those players declined those deals before Monday's 4 p.m. CT deadline.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.