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Mets within 'striking distance' in Vegas

Mets within 'striking distance' in Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Perhaps in the privacy of his Bellagio suite, Mets general manager Omar Minaya is confident. And certainly he should be. Basic economic theory indicates that the Mets, needing a closer and entering a market stocked with them, should be able to dictate proceedings at this week's Winter Meetings. And perhaps, in time, they will.

Yet for a general manager already entrenched in the spotlight at this year's Meetings, Minaya remained decidedly subdued on Monday afternoon. His club had already made a contract offer to free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, had met with fellow free agent Brian Fuentes earlier on Monday and had plans to meet with Trevor Hoffman later in the evening.

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The Mets have the power -- or more aptly, the luxury -- to outspend all competitors for any one of those three. Minaya knows it. Yet still, he refrained from confidence.

"I've been around long enough to know that if you can get it done, great," Minaya said. "If you can't get it done, that's fine, too. Eventually, it will get done."

The parameters of "eventually" seem to have grown. Early Sunday evening, Minaya said that he expected to leave Las Vegas with new players on his roster. Then he went about trying to achieve that goal, meeting with K-Rod and setting the terms for his initial offer, believed to be for three years -- or two with an option.

Minaya wouldn't say which other closers the Mets had approached with offers -- only that multiple offers had been made. Yet on Monday, such reason for optimism didn't seem to inspire it.

"What you don't want to do," Minaya said, "is feel like you have to do something."

Certainly, the Mets do have to do something -- though not necessarily here in Vegas. The lack of competition on the closer's market should aid them, but won't necessarily speed the process. Instead, it might only slow it. Knowing that Rodriguez and Fuentes lack the luxury of a great many suitors, the Mets can use time as a weapon to lower their asking prices.

"I think we have a pretty good idea what it would take to get some deals done," Minaya said. "We've done a lot of work to get to where we are today in the past weeks. We're in striking distance, but things could change."

Minaya also said that he will try to meet with Kerry Wood at some point this week, thus initiating contact with all four of the top free-agent closers on the market. Another relief option, Chad Cordero, was expected to arrive in Vegas on Monday night, though a person familiar with the situation said that meetings had not been scheduled with any team.

The Mets were also reportedly interested in striking a deal for Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan, but Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that such rumors were unfounded.

"I don't see us trading B.J., to be honest with you," Ricciardi said.

All the closer talk has partially masked the fact that the Mets, like so many other teams, are in dire need of starting pitching. Minaya has had talks with agents regarding that void, though the first day of the Meetings gave no indications of anything substantial.

Oliver Perez officially rejected the team's offer of arbitration late Sunday night, ensuring the Mets compensation if he signs elsewhere -- but also ensuring a thin rotation. Entering the Winter Meetings, the Mets are employing merely three established starters -- Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine, whose season ended with shoulder surgery.

Even if the Mets seem more immediately concerned with the acquisition of a closer, the search for a starter has become equally critical.

"We're keeping tabs on that also," Minaya said. "We have talked to agents about starting pitching. We're going to talk over the next couple of days, not only about the closer, but about the other areas that we feel that we need to fill."

One Monday rumor out of the Washington Post had the Mets exploring a deal that would send catcher Brian Schneider to the Red Sox for pitching, though a person familiar with the situation indicated that no such deal was close.

Perhaps the final three days of the Winter Meetings will end with a deal or a signing, as Minaya indicated so strongly on Sunday evening. Such optimism does not often fade so quickly, and Minaya's, despite his earlier words, was not yet broken on Monday.

"The good thing about these Meetings is that you're able to come together," Minaya said. "You're able to come together with agents, you're able to come together with some players, you're able to come together with some teams. Everybody's in one place, so you're able to be really productive in the sense of having dialogue. It does hopefully spur an environment of getting some things done."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }