HOUSTON (AP) Carlos Beltran has been trying to find a way to get back to Houston for years after spending a remarkable few months with the Astros more than a decade ago.
On Monday he finally got his wish when he and the Astros finalized a one-year, $16 million contract.
''It only took 12 years to come back,'' he said with a smile. ''I'm happy to be where I am and looking forward to working with the younger guys like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, (Alex) Bregman - the young core that's going to be here for a long time.''
Beltran is a nine-time All-Star and has hit .323 with 16 homers and 41 RBIs in 55 postseason games. He spent the last half of the 2004 season with the Astros and hit a postseason record-tying eight home runs. It was his first trip to the playoffs, and he still revels in the short time he had a chance to play with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
He wanted to stay with the Astros after that, but the team wouldn't offer him a no-trade clause. He's heard plenty of boos in the trips he's made to Houston since then, and had a message for the fans that were unhappy with him.
''They have to blame previous ownership for not making it work,'' he said. ''In my heart I wanted to be here. Coming from Kansas City and being able to get the opportunity to play with so many good players, this is the place I wanted to be, and unfortunately it didn't work out.''
Now he has another chance as the latest piece the Astros added to boost their lineup since missing the playoffs. They traded for catcher Brian McCann and added free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick before bringing Beltran back. And Houston might not be done yet.
''What we've tried to do is improve this team ... we're going to continue to try and find ways big and small to improve this team,'' general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
Beltran turns 40 in April. He hit a combined .295 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs last season for the New York Yankees and Texas. The switch-hitter split his time as a designated hitter and right fielder, playing 151 games.
He's looking forward to playing with Correa, a fellow Puerto Rican, and said the two of them and Altuve planned to meet for dinner on Monday night to get better acquainted. Beltran and Correa have chatted since he agreed to the deal and Beltran said Correa told him he's eager to learn from him.
''I said: `I'm willing to work with you honestly and pass to you everything I know,''' Beltran said. ''That's what it's all about. This game is not about what you can do for yourself ... but for me it's about what I can do for my team, for the guy next to me and how I can impact that person in a positive way.''
Luhnow has been a fan of Beltran's for quite some time and said Houston tried to trade for him last summer before he was dealt from the Yankees to Texas. He's thrilled to finally get him back to Houston.
''He's just a great fit for our club where we are right now,'' Luhnow said.
In 19 seasons, Beltran is a career .281 hitter with 421 home runs and 1,536 RBIs with the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees and Rangers. Beltran was able to get the No. 15 jersey he wore when he was last with the Astros after longtime catcher Jason Castro, who had worn the number for years, recently signed with the Twins.
''I felt that Houston was going to be the place where I was going to spend a lot of time, unfortunately it didn't work out that way,'' he said. ''Now I'm back and the good thing is you guys got to see the young Carlos play and now you get to see the old Carlos play. So it's good.''
Beltran isn't sure how much longer he'll play, but as he enters his 20th major league season he knows the window is getting smaller for him to get that elusive ring and believes the Astros give him a good chance to do that.
''The opportunity of winning, the opportunity to get to the playoffs and hopefully win a championship, that's what it's all about,'' he said. ''When I look at the whole lineup - the whole team I really like our chances.''