CARLOS BELTRAN and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a 2-year contract pending results of a physical, fortifying the team's lineup following the departure of Albert Pujols.
The team disclosed the move last 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 2 years - the same figure cited by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to the Associated Press.
The 34-year-old Beltran batted .300 with 22 home runs, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants last season. He likely will be the Opening Day rightfielder for the Cardinals next season. Lance Berkman is expected to move to first base, taking Pujols' spot.
Allen Craig, coming off an impressive postseason, gives the Cardinals another strong outfield option but will miss at least the first month while recovering from knee surgery.
In other baseball news:
* The New York Yankees were hit with a $13.9 million luxury-tax bill, their lowest since 2003. Boston, which missed the playoffs for the second straight season, is the only other team that will have to pay a tax. The Red Sox received a bill for $3.4 million.
* Barry Bonds is appealing his felony obstruction conviction. The case will be randomly assigned to a three-judge panel.
* The Washington Nationals traded four minor league prospects to Oakland for lefthander Gio Gonzalez, who was 16-12 last season.
Sport Stops *
The New Jersey Nets will be without center and leading scorer Brook Lopez for a couple of months because of a broken right foot. He will have surgery today. The Nets acquired All-Star center Mehmet Okur from Utah for a second-round draft choice.
* Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik was charged with misdemeanor drunken driving after Ohio police say he drove an all-terrain vehicle into a lamppost and telephone pole.