CLOSER TO the end of his long career than the start, Carlos Beltran finally got to put on the uniform of his favorite childhood team.

The eight-time All-Star was introduced at a Yankee Stadium news conference yesterday after signing a 3-year deal worth $45 million that was agreed to 2 weeks ago but made official on Thursday.

Sporting his No. 36 jersey and joined by his two daughters and his wife, Beltran talked about how much he admired the Yankees while growing up in Puerto Rico, and how close he came to joining them in 2005. But both sides that year, including former owner George Steinbrenner, just couldn't come to terms, leaving Beltran no other choice but to ink a seven-year deal with the Mets. Although he would have taken less then the $119 million that they gave him.

"Having the opportunity to come back again as a Yankee really means a lot to me. I grew up being a Yankee fan. Grew up being a Bernie Williams fan. At one point, I almost got the opportunity to sign with the Yankees. It didn't work out," Beltran said. "But at the end of the day what is in the past, is in the past. I'm looking forward to joining this ballclub, looking forward to the challenges ahead."

Beltran's deal was the team's third high-profile signing since Robinson Cano bolted for Seattle and $240 million. Although the team's plan has been to maintain its 2014 payroll under $189 threshold and the uncertainty of Alex Rodriguez' contract status while everyone awaits the decision from his appeal, the Yankees have been spending freely. With a glaring hole at catcher, Brian McCann was brought aboard for a 5-year, $85 million contract. Longtime rival and former Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a 7-year, $153 million deal that essentially ended Cano's days in The Bronx.

Beltran, who hit .296 for the Cardinals last season with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 145 games, could present different options for manager Joe Giraldi in the lineup. With three knee surgeries, including a pair in his right knee, the 36-year-old could be shuttled between rightfield and the DH spot.

Noteworthy

* Catcher Sebastian Valle cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple A Lehigh Valley. Valle was designated for assignment on Thursday, when the Phillies had to make room on the 40-man roster for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. But Valle went unclaimed.

* The Baltimore Orioles rescinded their 2-year, $15 million offer to free-agent closer Grant Balfour after saying they were dissatisfied with the results of his physical. The righthander had shoulder and elbow operations that kept him out of the major leagues in 2005 and 2006.

* The Minnesota Twins reached agreement with catcher Kurt Suzuki for a $2.75 million, 1-year contract, finding a replacement for Joe Mauer, who is moving to first base because of concussion issues.