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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Veteran bat Beltran, Yankees an ideal match

Veteran bat Beltran, Yankees an ideal match

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Veteran bat Beltran, Yankees an ideal match

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Carlos Beltran is a perfect fit for the Yankees, and not just because he makes that lineup significantly better. He's the prototype of what the Yankees want their players to be.

First, he'll be a huge presence in the middle of the lineup. Go ahead and write down 30 doubles, 24 home runs and an .830 on-base-plus-slugging. That's what Carlos Beltran brings to the table.

He's also a consummate professional who'll be a great influence in the clubhouse and a good citizen of the community. If Yankees fans are nervous about his turning 37 years old next April, they shouldn't be. No player in baseball works harder at conditioning and staying healthy.

That's no guarantee of anything. But there are no perfect free agents. If $45 million over three years seems high, what were the alternatives? The Yankees missed the playoffs in 2013 for just the second time in 19 seasons, and with no immediate help in the farm system, free agency was the road back to the postseason.

They've had a great week, too, despite losing Robinson Cano to the Mariners. To add Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Beltran, and to bring back righty Hiroki Kuroda, pushes the Bombers back toward another postseason appearance.

The Yankees have all kinds of question marks. From starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda to infielders Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, there's going to be a large unknown quantity about this club.

Look at them from one angle, and it's easy to predict them being no more than average. But if they catch a break in terms of health, if their veterans can be close to what they've always been, the Yankees have a chance to compete.

As happy as the Yankees are to have Beltran, here's guessing he's even happier about the opportunity to wear the pinstripes. He has had his eye on the Yankees at other points in his career, but for various reasons, it never worked out.

There may have been a time in 2009 and 2010 when Beltran seemed to be a player in decline. Injuries limited him to 145 games in those two seasons, and no one could have predicted he'd still be able to play the way he has the last four seasons (26 home runs, 88 RBIs, .860 OPS).

Beltran's done New York, having spent six-plus seasons with the Mets from 2005-2011, hitting 149 homers and driving in 559 runs over 839 games. He will not blink on the game's biggest stage, either. He has been at his best when the lights are brightest, hitting .333 in 51 postseason games.

He also has some experience replacing another club's star.

Two years ago, when Albert Pujols left the Cardinals to sign with the Angels, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak needed about 20 minutes to decide Beltran was the perfect guy to replace his star slugger.

Beltran responded nicely, putting together two solid seasons and helping the Cardinals make the postseason twice. So as Yankees manager Joe Girardi plays around with his new lineup pieces, he'll probably pencil in Beltran as his No. 3 hitter.

With Ellsbury and Jeter probably hitting in front of him, Beltran should be in a nice spot to be productive. Playing for the Yankees is a unique experience, but it's one Beltran appears to have wanted.

There's always an unknown factor when a club brings in a player from the outside. Beltran's gifts are easily measurable, and as good as he is on the field, he's equally good in terms of being a good teammate and caring only about the bottom line. As perfect marriages go, this is about as close as it gets.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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