Free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran is returning to New York — and not to the Royals — on a three-year deal for $45 million.
The news broke Friday night on Twitter, from Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, and also was reported within minutes by several other media outlets.
There was no immediate official confirmation from Beltran or the Yankees, but Beltran’s wife, Jessica, soon thereafter posted “Back to NY!” on Twitter.
Beltran, 36, played from 2005-11 in New York, but that tour came for the cross-borough Mets. He spent the first six-plus seasons of his 16-year career with the Royals from 1998-2004.
The Royals targeted Beltran in an effort to boost their attack and are believed to have been willing to offer a three-year deal — something the Yankees had been hesitant to do.
But the Yankees signaled a willingness earlier Friday to escalate their push to pursue free agents after losing free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano to Seattle.
Cano accepted a 10-year deal for $240 million from the Mariners after the Yankees signaled an unwillingness to budge from their offer of $160 million over seven years.
The Royals appeared positioned as favorites to sign Beltran after he met Tuesday with club officials at Kauffman Stadium.
Beltran batted .296 last season for St. Louis with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games. His decision came one day after the Royals acquired right fielder Norichika Aoki from Milwaukee for left-handed reliever Will Smith.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore indicated the trade for Aoki did not diminish the club’s interest in Beltran.
Failure to land Beltran is now likely to diminish a push by the Royals to further reshape their roster. Moore previously indicated such a signing would probably require corresponding payroll reductions.
In particular, signing Beltran was expected to put designated hitter Billy Butler on the trading block because club officials believed Beltran would require increasing duty as a DH over the length of his contract.