Yankees fan growing up, Beltran dons pinstripes
Eight-time All-Star outfielder calls it 'great honor' to come back to New York
NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran's longtime dream of one day donning Yankees pinstripes officially became a reality on Friday morning, when the Yanks introduced their latest offseason addition in a news conference at Yankee Stadium.
Beltran, who signed a three-year deal reportedly worth $45 million, was joined by his wife, Jessica, and daughters, Kiara and Ivana, as the Yankees unveiled their newest outfielder by presenting him with a jersey with the No. 36 on the back.
Beltran not only grew up a Yankees fan, but also offered the Bronx Bombers his services at a discounted rate during a previous go-around in free agency following the 2004 season. The Yanks passed on signing Beltran at the time, thanks largely to the fact that one of Beltran's all-time favorite players, Bernie Williams, was still patrolling center field in New York. Beltran ultimately struck a deal with the crosstown rival Mets, where he spent most of the next seven seasons.
This time around, however, things seemed to be a much better fit for both sides.
"For me, it's a great honor to be able to come back to this city where I was a long time ago," Beltran said. "I learned about the city, learned about everything, and having the opportunity to come back again as a Yankee really means a lot to me."
An eight-time All-Star, Beltran's signing marked the Yankees' third marquee offensive addition this offseason -- and second in the outfield alone. Along with the switch-hitting Beltran, the Yankees have also added left-handed hitters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, giving manager Joe Girardi plenty of balance up and down the lineup.
The trio also brings with it a wealth of postseason experience. Ellsbury is coming off a championship run with the Red Sox, who defeated Beltran's Cardinals in the World Series. Together, the three have 101 games of postseason experience, including 51 for Beltran himself.
"To be able to add another switch-hitter to the middle of our order gives me so much flexibility," Girardi said. "We've talked about it -- at times we had trouble scoring runs last year. But our lineup has gotten so much deeper with guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark, get on base, hit for average and grind out at-bats.
"We all know the success that Carlos has had in his career and the success in the postseason and I'm really looking forward to October with our new player, Carlos Beltran."
Beltran's deal came as a direct response to Robinson Cano's decision to leave the Yankees earlier this month for a 10-year, $240 million offer from the Mariners. Beltran also inked his previous deal on the heels of a star player being lured away for an identical 10-year, $240 million deal when Albert Pujols left the Cardinals to sign with the Angels.
"Last year I went to St. Louis and a lot of people thought, 'Well, he's going to replace Pujols,'" Beltran said. "There's not many players that can replace Pujols, you know? He's one of a kind. Cano is one of a kind, like myself. We have to understand our jobs as individuals and go out there and play the game."
The Yankees wasted no time reloading in the wake of Cano's departure and Beltran is confident that his latest deal will bring him his first ring.
"With the signings of Ellsbury, McCann, myself and the players we already we have," Beltran said, "I believe that we have a good team that can go all the way. I believe that."
At 36, Beltran's deal certainly has a share of risk involved, especially considering his past knee issues. The slugger was limited to just 145 combined games from 2009-10, but has played in at least 142 in each of the past three seasons, all of which came in the National League -- without the luxury of being used as a designated hitter.
Despite the Yankees' injury woes from a season ago, general manager Brian Cashman said this was a risk certainly worth taking. It also helps that the Yankees now have four capable starting outfielders in Ellsbury, Beltran, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, giving Girardi the ability to plug in Beltran as the designated hitter whenever he feels the 16-year veteran could use some added rest.
"As we move forward, we'll have a little bit more ability to protect him, because of the DH spot," Cashman said. "And I hope we have the same results the Cardinals had the last couple years. But yeah, there's some risk there with the knees, but we knew that going in."
Though coy about any specific moves, Cashman added that the Yankees are looking to improve in certain areas, particularly starting pitching, ahead of Opening Day.
"We have some more stuff to do," Cashman said. "We had a lot of holes and we've been addressing them slowly, from my perspective. But there's still some questions to be answered."
As for Beltran, he reiterated that playing in the Bronx will be a dream come true, regardless of what other moves may or may not come to fruition. After all, he feels strongly that his pursuit of that elusive World Series ring will finally be realized in Yankee pinstripes.
"As a player and, first of all as a fan, I used to look up at this organization because they always did what it takes to put good teams out there and win championships," Beltran said. "As a player, you always want to join an organization where you're going to have an opportunity to win a championship."