Cardinals have “intensified talks” with Carlos Beltran

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Cleveland’s actual level of interest in Carlos Beltran is unclear, but there’s no doubt that St. Louis is legitimately making a strong run at the free agent outfielder.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch the Cardinals have “intensified their talks” with Beltran and are likely offering him at least a two-year contract.

Several reports have suggested that Beltran will make a decision on his new home by the end of this week, so presumably the Cardinals have put their interest in Coco Crisp on hold until then.

No one can replace Albert Pujols’ production, particularly since the Cardinals have made it clear that they aren’t interested in Prince Fielder, but if healthy and available for a two-year commitment Beltran might be the best all-around value still on the market. He hit .300 with 22 homers and a .910 OPS in 142 games for the Mets and Giants this past season, marking the fifth time in six years he’s topped an .875 OPS.

Report: A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.