KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals’ push to reacquire free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran accelerated Tuesday in face-to-face meetings and negotiations in Kansas City.
Officially, the Royals did not confirm the sessions, but they were confirmed privately by numerous sources. Word of the talks, fueled by social media, spread quickly throughout the day.
The Royals pushed Beltran, 36, to the top of their offseason target list once they filled their need for a veteran starting pitcher by signing left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year deal for $32 million on Nov. 22.
One top club official said last weekend the Royals “would love” to sign Beltran, whom they drafted in 1995 and developed into a rising star before trading him in 2004 to Houston in a money-cutting measure.
Beltran previously acknowledged a willingness to return to the Royals, who are positioned as contenders for the first time in a generation after a season in which they posted their first winning record, at 86-76, in 10 years.
The Royals also appear willing to meet Beltran’s desire for a three-year deal, while many other clubs, including the New York Yankees, are disinclined to offer more than two years.
Beltran already has a three-year offer for $48 million from an unidentified club, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. While not confirmed, industry sources believe that offer came from the Seattle Mariners.
The Yankees have long been viewed as the favorite to land Beltran, a 16-year veteran who batted .296 last season for St. Louis with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games.
Boston, Detroit, Texas, Baltimore and Cincinnati have also shown interest.
The Royals would likely need to clear payroll in order to accommodate Beltran, but they see him as the best option to boost an attack that scored fewer runs than all but four American League teams.
“One thing about Carlos Beltran is he’s a money player,” a club official said last weekend. “He’s an RBI guy. He produces.”
Beltran battled knee injuries in recent years and is no longer the fleet runner and defender who roamed the Kauffman Stadium outfield from 1998-2004. Even he agrees he can benefit from occasional duty as a designated hitter.
That suggests the Royals, if they sign Beltran, would be increasingly open to trading DH Billy Butler. Doing so would free up $20.5 million over the next two years.