Mets brass had hoped to wine and dine Zito a bit in the Big Apple -- the way they did with Tom Glavine a few years ago. Glavine, in fact, was ready to fly up from his Georgia home to be among the escort party to show Zito, a left-coast left-hander, around Manhattan.
Zito had met with the Rangers, another club hot on his trail, in Arlington, Texas, but decided to greet the Mets at his home in southern California -- also the base of his agent, Scott Boras. The New York papers were quick to point out that this was not necessarily a negative as far as the Mets were concerned, because general manager Omar Minaya has been successful luring free agents such as pitchers Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic) and Billy Wagner (Virginia) and center fielder Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico) after visiting with each player at their homes.
Minaya was accompanied by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, assistant GM John Ricco and vice president for player development Tony Bernazard on Mets owner Fred Wilpon's private jet. They were expected to sit with Zito and Boras on Tuesday night, with Minaya due back for a charity outing on Thursday night.
It remains doubtful that Zito will be in any club's Christmas stocking before Santa's arrival on Monday. There were also reports that the Giants remained in the hunt for Zito, although San Francisco was busy on Tuesday, signing Ryan Klesko to a one-year contract and reuniting him with former Padres manager Bruce Bochy. Meanwhile in San Diego, the Friars completed a free-agent deal for second baseman Marcus Giles reuniting him with his brother, Brian.
The Rangers spent the day feting newly-signed closer Eric Gagne and remained hopeful some of his saves next year would be for Zito. Texas officials also dispelled reports to media outlets that the Rangers were willing to meet the $100 million for Zito sought by Boras. The Mets are reportedly disinclined to go above $75 million and are banking on a pitcher-friendly ballpark and a team that was one game removed from the National League pennant as tantalizing intangibles.
Texas made an offer to free-agent pitcher Mark Mulder earlier this month, and his representative, Gregg Clifton, made the club a counteroffer on Monday. The Rangers are one of the teams Mulder is seriously considering along with the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Indians, Giants and Padres.
The Yankees had Andy Pettitte in town on Tuesday for a physical and will likely announce his signing at a Wednesday news conference. Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, who agreed to a five-year, $20 million contract, is scheduled to arrive in New York on Wednesday and have a physical this week.
Efforts to acquire Pirates reliever Mike Gonzalez have fallen on the back burner, according to the New York Post, because the Yankees won't relinquish both outfielder Melky Cabrera and reliever Scott Proctor. The Pirates may be stepping up efforts to acquire first baseman Adam LaRoche from the Braves, who could in turn deal Gonzalez to the Yankees. But the Braves want more than just Gonzalez for LaRoche, possibly second baseman Jose Castillo.
The Red Sox might get into that scrum, according to the Boston Herald, which reported that Boston is going after Gonzalez using center fielder Coco Crisp and/or infielder Eric Hinske as bait. The Herald also reported that general manager Theo Epstein had invited Masumi Kuwata to Spring Training to compete for a bullpen job before he signed on Monday with the Pirates, choosing Pittsburgh because he felt that he had a better chance to make that team than the Red Sox.
The Yankees are in the market for a first baseman, preferably a left-handed bat, and have requested medical records on free-agent first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, the Post reported.
The signing of Jayson Werth gives the Phillies another outfield option, though they are still looking for a left-handed hitter off the bench. They are also still searching for a setup reliever and are dangling Jon Lieber, who has drawn interest from the Pirates and Rangers.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would probably decide on Tuesday or Wednesday whether to submit a formal offer to free-agent right-hander Jeff Suppan, who has a history of success at Miller Park (5-1, 1.76 ERA). The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Suppan's agent is waiting for Zito to sign before making any decisions. Milwaukee already has four pitchers set in the rotation -- Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas -- but is looking for one more experienced arm to avoid the dropoff suffered last season when Sheets and Tomo Ohka missed two months with shoulder injuries.
The Nationals continued to stockpile their pitching staff with the signing of lefty reliever Ray King, who was with the Rockies last year, and Jason Simontacchi, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2004 with the Cardinals and is coming back from a torn right labrum. The Jose Vidro trade means shortstop Felipe Lopez will move to second base and Cristian Guzman will remain at shortstop. Lopez made the decision almost two weeks ago after talking to general manager Jim Bowden on the phone and manager Manny Acta in a face-to-face meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.