The Rangers, Mariners and especially his old Royals could become real threats to keep star free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran from returning east to the Yankees or Red Sox, according to people familiar with his talks.

Kansas City is believed serious in its intention to bring him back. "They are in on him for sure," said one person familiar with the discussions.

Beltran is said by a source to have requested a four-year deal, though it's believed he'd probably take the right three-year deal, if offered. The Royals went four years on mid-rotation pitcher Jason Vargas, who had an ailment last year, so it seems conceivable they'd go more than two for Beltran, their former star.

The Royals are said to hold an allure for Beltran who came up with them. But as free agency goes, the terms are always important, and there's no evidence to this point the Yankees or Red Sox have signaled a willingness to go past two years.

Beltran once wanted so badly to go to the Yankees, he offered them about a $20 million discount before signing with the Mets for $119 million over seven years. But times have changed.