Beltran remains Yanks' No. 1 outfield target

The New York Yankees have had Carlos Beltran as their top free-agent outfield target since they began formulating their offseason shopping spree in October. That has not changed.

The Yankees want Beltran, but they are part of a strong group of teams that are after the ex-Met. The Yankees have spoken with Beltran's agent, Dan Lozano, but no deal is close yet, according to sources.

So are they the favorites? Since Beltran has expressed a desire to be a Yankee in the past, played in New York and lists winning a championship among his goals in free agency, they very well could be.

However, the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners are all in on Beltran.

Of those teams, the Rangers and Red Sox are clearly the biggest threats both with their wallets and their championship credos. Lozano might want to wait until Nelson Cruz comes off the board before he advises Beltran to sign. Then Texas -- after not getting Brian McCann and presumably losing out on Cruz -- could badly need Beltran.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox favor higher average annual value but shorter deals, which worked to perfection last season. Beltran, 36, would fit perfectly into those plans.

If we had to bet, we would go with the Yankees signing Beltran. In our projected lineup from Sunday, we had Beltran as a Yankee. Throughout the process, we have written that the Yankees like Beltran the most among available outfielders.

They have a strong desire to ink him. He has wanted to play in the Bronx. But all the teams involved would prefer to have Beltran on a two-year deal. If Lozano can get the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers all in big, then maybe he could push it to three.

So who is really the favorite? I would say the team that is willing to go to three years, if there is one.

If all things are even, then, yeah, the Yankees are probably the favorites. But that is just a term that doesn't really matter, because free agency is not who leads the race -- just who wins it.