When the Cardinals' brain trust recalculated the direction they'd take after Albert Pujols signed with the Angels, general manager John Mozeliak and his staff consulted their lists of free agents who could fill their sudden needs.

Carlos Beltran's name kept coming up as a fit.

"He was on top," Mozeliak said.

Now he could be No. 2 in their lineup.

Beltran, a switch-hitting outfielder, agreed to a two-year, $26-million contract with the Cardinals on Thursday night. Mozeliak described how the club sees the six-time All-Star as a potential No. 2 hitter, ahead of thumpers Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

The deal, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, also includes a no-trade clause. Beltran brings a desired sock to the Cardinals' lineup and adds needed depth to the outfield.

He is the first player who wasn't already with the Cards to get a multi-year deal during Mozeliak's tenure, and his $13-million average salary is the highest in years for a player who has not been with the organization before.

"We did not want to go into the season without addressing (the depth) in the outfield," Mozeliak said. "We saw this as an opportunity because we viewed him as another impact hitter we could bring to the lineup."

The Cardinals plan to formally announce Beltran's signing in the coming days. Mozeliak said he does not expect another move before the New Year.