NEW YORK -- Sandy Alderson's business trip to the Caribbean, which includes visits to Carlos Beltran in Puerto Rico and Luis Castillo in the Dominican Republic, began this week with one of his final first-round interviews. In the Dominican Republic, Triple-A manager Ken Oberkfell became the ninth man to interview for the job of Mets manager.
The Mets may still meet with a 10th and final candidate -- Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo, according to ESPNNewYork.com -- before proceeding to a second round of interviews. The team would not confirm that report.
But Oberkfell and Oquendo may not remain candidates for long. Multiple reports on Friday indicated that the Mets had decided to meet again with Clint Hurdle, Bob Melvin and Terry Collins. Hurdle, however, agreed to a three-year deal on Sunday to manage the Pirates. Melvin and Collins could interview for a second time as soon as next week.
Chip Hale may also earn a call-back interview, according to the reports, though he is the only one of the group without Major League managing experience.
Melvin, 49, saw marginally more success in seven years as a big league manager -- two with the Mariners and five with the D-backs. Posting three winning seasons but a losing record overall, he guided Arizona to the NLCS in 2007. Most recently, he has worked as a scout for the Mets, and his familiarity with the organization could help him in the interview process.
Perhaps most familiar with the Mets is Collins, who spent last year as the team's Minor League field coordinator. A big league manager for six seasons with the Astros and Angels, Collins worked closely in the past with Paul DePodesta, the Mets' new vice president of player development and amateur scouting. And he is the only interviewee with a winning record as a big league manager.
It is for those reasons that Collins remains the presumptive favorite for the job.
"There's a value in having done it before," Alderson said on SNY's "Hot Stove" program on Thursday night. "I don't think there's any question about that. But there's also a value in already being a part of the Mets organization and having a familiarity with players on our Major League roster, having a relationship with members of the existing coaching staff, knowing some of our Minor League coaches and managers and what have you, having been in New York -- either living in New York or experiencing the atmosphere here for a year or so."
In addition to Collins, Melvin and Hale -- the team's incumbent third-base coach -- the Mets have interviewed Oberkfell, bench coach Dave Jauss, Class A Brooklyn manager Wally Backman, Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale and former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu.
Alderson, who will travel to Orlando next week for MLB's GM meetings, hopes to complete the hiring process by the start of next month's Winter Meetings -- but could do so sooner.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.