Cards Shore Up Second With Belliard

The Cardinals still lead the National League Central by 3½ games, but after getting swept by the Cubs in a four-game series they decided to bolster one of the weakest spots in the lineup. St. Louis traded for former all-star Ronnie Belliard on Sunday, sending Hector Luna to the Indians.

Belliard, 31, will replace Aaron Miles as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman. An all-star in 2004, Belliard since has hit consistently for average with gap power, which is more than St. Louis was getting from Miles. Belliard is batting .291/.337/.420 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 93 games this season. His speed is below-average for a middle infielder, but he does have a strong arm for second base and is quick on the double-play pivot. Belliard currently makes $4 million in the final season of a two-year, $6.5 million deal, after which he’ll become a free agent. He’s a career .273/.340/.413 hitter with 75 homers and 416 RBIs in 994 games.

Luna, 26, signed with the Indians out of the Dominican Republic but was claimed by the Cardinals in the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2003 Winter Meetings. He played six positions for St. Louis this year, seeing his most action at second base and batting .291/.355/.417 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 76 games. Luna has a line-drive bat but no standout offensive tool. He has average speed, and his arm is his best defensive attribute. Cleveland probably will replace Belliard with some combination of Luna and rookie Joe Inglett, with recent trade acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera also factoring into the mix. Luna may qualify for arbitration after this season. In 222 big league games, he has hit .276/.336/.398 with eight homers, 61 RBIs and 22 steals.

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