Mets' offseason wheels in motion

Mets see attractive free agents hit market

NEW YORK -- Not to rush the season or anything, but the Mets may begin their Holliday shopping forthwith. Among the 79 big league players who filed for free agency Thursday was one Matt Holliday, a player with skills that are consistent with the Mets' expressed needs. Holliday hits baseballs over and beyond fences, something that was beyond the Mets' power most of last season.

He is one of nine players who availed themselves to free agency Thursday who interest the Mets as they try to make to make roster repairs following an unrewarding and unsightly season. Also filing were fellow slugger Jason Bay; starting pitchers John Lackey, Jason Marquis and Randy Wolf; outfielder Mike Cameron; second baseman Orlando Hudson; and first baseman Troy Glaus, each of whom could fill a need for the Mets.

And among the eight players who were on the Mets' roster and eligible for free agency, two filed -- Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider. The club has a degree of interest in affording Delgado a chance, but such a move would be inconsistent with the high regard for Daniel Murphy that exists in some offices -- including the manager's -- at Citi Field.

The 15-day filing period ends Nov 19. Until then, the Mets may negotiate with and sign Delgado, Schneider and any of the other six eligible players on their 40-man roster who file. Alex Cora, Elmer Dessens, Ramon Martinez, Gary Sheffield and Fernando Tatis also are eligible, and J.J. Putz is likely to become eligible. The Mets are not likely to exercise their option on the contract of the veteran relief pitcher.

The Mets may notify any free agent to express interest during the filing period, but only incumbent clubs may negotiate and sign players until after the filing period.

The Mets have not said publicly which players most interest them, but people within the organization who are familiar with the club's thinking have mentioned Holliday, Bay, Lackey, Marquis, Wolf, Cameron, Hudson, Glaus and two catchers who are eligible to file -- Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas. Chances are the club will speak with the agents representing Delgado, Cora, Tatis and also Putz, once it declines to exercise its option on his contract.

The club has identified and prioritized its needs as follows -- power hitters, a No. 2 starting pitcher, a veteran catcher and, as always, setup relief. Holliday and Bay appear to be the most attractive sluggers, and Lackey and Marquis the most attractive starting pitchers. Chances are those four will be among the most actively pursued of the 180-some odd players likely to file.

How actively general manager Omar Minaya and his staff will pursue any free agent is an unknown. Club COO Jeff Wilpon said the day after the Mets' 70-92 season ended that the club would provide "what Omar needs" to restore the Mets as contenders. But, of course, the Mets are not alone in the market.

Holliday's value has increased dramatically in the aftermath of his summer in St. Louis. He provided legitimate protection for Albert Pujols after he was acquired by the Cardinals. And, as the most marketable and available starter, Lackey is likely to attract many suitors too.

The Mets' poor 2009 season may make them less attractive to free agents than they were a year ago when they signed free agent Frankie Rodriguez. Moreover, hitters may be persuaded to look elsewhere because of the pitcher-friendly image of Citi Field. And, until the Mets acquire a catcher, pitchers may be reluctant to sign.

The Mets' needs are so many that they cannot establish one course of action. Signing one or two of the primary free agents would make a difference. But if that can't be accomplished, what then? Some possibilities the Mets have discussed follow:

• Pursue Cameron to play left field, thereby improving the outfield defense and adding some power. That would reduce Angel Pagan to a reserve role, which is what the club prefers. Chances are the Mets would want Cameron for one season, affording more time for Fernando Martinez to develop.

• Include Luis Castillo in a trade package and hope to fill a need with what they receive in return and then sign Hudson to play second base. The Mets believe that Castillo's renaissance season and, in particular, his on-base average, .387, have made him attractive to other clubs. Hudson, who lost his second-base job with the Dodgers, is not likely to be pursued by too many clubs.

• Sign Glaus, a right-handed power hitter, to a conditional contract and have him available to share first base with Murphy and provide power off the bench. That would all but eliminate Delgado from the Mets' thoughts. But for now, the club is considering offering Delgado a conditional contract.

• Sign Wolf and package a starter on the Mets' roster -- not Johan Santana, of course -- to acquire a No. 2 starter or a slugging outfielder.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.