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Beltran returns to Kansas City during free-agent tour

Outfielder began career with Royals, won 1999 AL Rookie of the Year

KANSAS CITY -- If Royals fans doubted that the Glass family would make a strong push to sign Carlos Beltran, that was put to rest on Tuesday, when the coveted free-agent outfielder was at Kauffman Stadium to meet with team officials.

Beltran acknowledged the meeting after he left late in the afternoon after a lengthy session with team president Dan Glass, general manager Dayton Moore and other team officials.

"I met with Dayton and ownership, and everything was good," Beltran texted.

Moore confirmed the meeting with Beltran and his representatives through team spokesman Mike Swanson, but said he'd have no further comment.

The New York Post first reported the Beltran visit, part of a tour that he's making that will include other clubs. Several teams have expressed strong interest in him, and things are heating up with the approach of the Winter Meetings, which open Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

At the same time, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that an unidentified club has made a three-year, $48 million offer, but there's no indication that it was the Royals.

New York sources, however, believe the Royals are willing to go three years in an effort to out-do the Yankees in terms of contract length.

Beltran, in an interview with last month, indicated his health -- including his previously troublesome right knee -- is good and said he felt good enough to play another 10 years. At 36, that's not likely, but he's eager to add to his credentials for possible entry into the Hall of Fame.

He's made no secret of his interest in returning to Kansas City.

"I think it would be a great story, if it happens for me to go back," he said last month.

His history with the Royals is certainly a rich one.

A second-round Draft pick out of Manati, Puerto Rico, in 1995, Beltran jumped from Class A Wilmington to Double-A Wichita to Kansas City during the 1998 season. He played 14 games in September of that year, and in 1999 was the Royals' center fielder and the American League's Rookie of the Year. He got the news while on a honeymoon cruise with his bride, Jessica.

He began the '99 season as the leadoff batter but eventually became the No. 3 hitter and finished with 108 RBIs, 22 home runs, seven triples, 27 doubles and a .293 average. He also scored 112 runs, and he was on his way, but not without a road bump.

His 2000 season started with a slow April. Things picked up, but on July 4, he went on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right knee. Later, he showed his independence by insisting on rehabbing with the Major League club instead of at the team's Florida training facility and was suspended by then-general manager Allaird Baird for 18 days. He finally returned to the lineup on Sept. 4 and finished with a career-low .247 average.

But happy days returned in 2001, when he was voted Royals Player of the Year after leading the club with a .306 average, 106 runs, 101 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. He also had 68 extra-base hits, 24 of them homers. At age 24, he was the youngest player to win the award since George Brett in 1976.

In 2002, he played all 162 games and while his average slipped to .273, he led the Royals in virtually every other offensive category, including 29 homers, 105 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.

In 2003, Beltran missed the first 14 games because of a Spring Training oblique injury, but he recorded his fourth season with at least 100 runs and 100 RBIs. With a .307 average, he belted 26 homers and had a career-best 41 steals. Among other things, he had the Royals' first inside-the-park homer at Boston's Fenway Park.

Things were going well but time was flying by. Free agency was approaching after the 2004 season. Fearful the Royals wouldn't be able to afford Beltran, who was up to $9 million in salary, Baird decided to get what he could through a trade. On June 23, 2004, Beltran was sent to Houston in a three-team deal that netted the Royals catcher John Buck (from the Astros), third baseman Mark Teahen and pitcher Mike Wood (from the A's).

Strangely, though he was voted onto the American League All-Star team by AL players that year as a Royal, when the game came around, he played for the National League in an Astros uniform. Fittingly, the game was in Houston.

It was during the 2004 playoffs with the Astros that Beltran blazed into postseason history, hitting eight homers with 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored in the Astros' 12 games. In one stretch, he homered in five straight games. That helped him secure a rich contract with the Mets -- $119 million over seven years.

His Mets years included three straight years of triple-digit RBIs, including 116 along with a career-high 41 homers in 2006, when the team made the playoffs but lost in the NL Championship Series to the Cardinals. Knee problems hampered his 2009-10 seasons with the Mets and, recovered in 2011, he was traded at midseason to the Giants.

Then came a two-year deal with St. Louis that helped put the Cardinals into the postseason twice, including Beltran's first World Series this season. When he emerged from the loss to the Red Sox, in 51 postseason games for the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, he had 16 homers, a .333 average and a .445 on-base percentage.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals, Carlos Beltran