The New York Post’s Joel Sherman and Mark Hale report on Scott Boras’ claim that as many as 5 teams are bidding for Carlos Beltran’s services.

Scott Boras declared yesterday there are five teams in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes, all of which have met the agent’s starting-point demand of at least seven years and $112 million.

As of yesterday, the only team clearly known to have approached Boras’ baseline is the Mets, which validates them as a major player and further fuels the possibility they are actually now the front-runners.

“Any team I’m negotiating with has met this plateau,” Boras said. “That’s the rules of the game. I’m not talking to anybody about Carlos Beltran if they’re not at that number, with the condition that it’s the starting point. The idea was to eliminate teams and to work with a small group.”

The Boras camp has left the impression that the Yankees are in on Beltran and in at the highest level – meaning George Steinbrenner. But, according to a source, Boras called Steinbenner directly Tuesday to try to re-start negotiations that have laid mostly dormant since Steinbrenner met with Boras and Beltran in Tampa on Dec. 21 at their request. Steinbrenner, according to the source, did not talk with Boras and instead ordered executives Randy Levine and Brian Cashman to inform the agent that until the Randy Johnson deal is finalized – and physicals are not scheduled until next week – the Yankees will not focus on anything else major. According to the source, the Yanks still had not made an offer to Beltran.

The Yankees could be trying to impose their pace on these proceedings, rather than fall prey to Boras, and are waiting to strike late when all other clubs have made their intentions known. One Yankee official said last night he cannot imagine Steinbrenner simply standing on the sidelines when such a star is available, while another said that he did not think Steinbrenner had revealed his true intentions yet. The Mets, however, are one of the finalists for Beltran as the derby hits what could be its final 72 hours. Beltran’s pursuit is widely expected to be resolved by Saturday at midnight, the deadline at which the Astros lose negotiating rights with him.

It’s not altogether clear what other clubs make up Boras’ five-team claims other than the Astros, who have admitted to making an offer, and the Cubs, who have reportedly made an offer).

Even if the Yankees emerge as the fourth team, it’s even less clear whom the fifth club would be. Speculation has centered around Detroit, a club with money to spend, but GM Dave Dombrowski has said repeatedly that the Tigers are not in the hunt.

Boras has gained a reputation among major league team officials for overstating the number of teams and dollars involved for his clients.

Meanwhile, Beltran has yet to sign with the Mets and the whipsering campaign has already begun. The Daily News’ John Harper allows an anonymous source to question Beltran’s character.

Not everyone thinks that Carlos Beltran is such a great idea for the Mets, at least not for $100 million-plus. One such person is the head international scout for a major league team who has known Beltran long enough that he calls him Ivan, the name by which family and close friends call him in his native Puerto Rico.

“Ivan is a moody guy,” the scout was saying by phone yesterday. “When things don’t go well, he drops his head. I’ve known him since he was 15, and there have always been makeup questions about him. He is a talented guy, but he’s not a New York guy. If he falls in a slump there, with all of the attention he will get, he could be in a slump for a month.”

The scout insists he has no agenda regarding Beltran. The team for which he works is not in the running for the prized free-agent center fielder, nor is it in a division with either the Mets or Yankees.

Beltran’s best years should still be ahead of him, but was his October a sign of greatness to come or just a crazy hot streak? And what if there is legitimate concern about how Beltran will handle New York? The scout who knows him says Beltran is not suited to being the guy expected to carry a team, especially in a place like New York.

“He has always played for himself,” the scout said. “He is not a leader. Teammates respect him for his ability, but he is not a guy they rally around. I’d be worried that his personality is going to become an issue in New York. He’s not going to like it when the press asks him why he’s not hitting. He’s going to bite back.”

Harper seems pretty concerned that the Mets might be committing a ton of money to the wrong kind of player. I don’t have access to all of his older columns, but I can only assume that he urged similar caution when the Mets were pursuing Vince Coleman, Eddie Murray, Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen and Rey Ordonez.