NEW YORK - Closer to the end of his long career than the start, Carlos Beltran finally got to put on the uniform of his favorite childhood team.
The eight-time All-Star was introduced at a Yankee Stadium news conference Friday after signing a three-year deal worth $45 million that was agreed to two weeks ago but made official on Thursday.
Sporting his No. 36 jersey and joined by his two daughters and his wife, Beltran talked about how much he admired the Yankees while growing up in Puerto Rico, and how close he came to joining them in 2005. But both sides that year, including former owner George Steinbrenner, just couldn't come to terms, leaving Beltran no other choice but to ink a seven-year deal with the Mets. Although he would have taken less than the $119 million that they gave him.
"Having the opportunity to come back again as a Yankee really means a lot to me. I grew being a Yankee fan. Grew up being a Bernie Williams fan. At one point I almost got the opportunity to sign with the Yankees. It didn't work out," Beltran said. "But at the end of the day what is in the past, is in the past. I'm looking forward to joining this ballclub, looking forward to the challenges ahead."
Beltran's deal was the team's third high-profile signing since Robinson Cano bolted for Seattle and $240 million. Although the team's plan has been to maintain its 2014 payroll under $189 threshold and the uncertainty of Alex Rodriguez's contract status while everyone awaits the decision from his appeal, the Yankees have been spending freely. With a glaring hole at catcher, Brian McCann was brought aboard for a five-year, $85 million contract. Long-time rival and former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal that essentially ended Cano's days in The Bronx.
Beltran, who hit .296 for the Cardinals last season with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 145 games, could present different options for manager Joe Giraldi in the lineup. With three knee surgeries, including a pair in his right knee, the 36-year-old could be shuttled between right-field and the DH spot.
Currently the Yankees have six outfielders on the roster, although they've been looking at trying to see if they can move Brett Gardner for a starting pitcher, with the retirement of Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes signing with the Minnesota Twins.
Beltran once again joins another team as a free agent after his new team let one of its biggest stars walk away. Filling Albert Pujols' shoes in St. Louis was a tough task, but Beltran put up some good numbers as he regaining his All-Star pedigree during his two years there and playing the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.
He sees his move to New York as just being one of the many pieces needed to return the Yankees to the playoffs after being left out of October baseball for just the second time in 19 years.
"In my case I don't come here to replace nobody," Beltran said. "I come here to fill my own shoes."
NOTES: Gary Tuck rejoined the Yankees on Friday as bullpen coach. The 59-year-old Tuck was Girardi's bench coach in 2006 with the Florida Marlins and was Boston's bullpen coach from 2007-12. Tuck prviously worked for the Yankess as a catching instructor, bullpen coach, scout and minor league manager. ... The Yankess also hired Trey Hillman as special assistant of major and minor league operations, Mike Quade as a roving outfield and baserunning instructor, and Matthew Krause as strength and conditioning coordinator.