INDIANAPOLIS - Scott Boras made $180 million sound like pocket change to the Wilpons as he spoke Wednesday to a media horde surrounding him at the winter meetings. The topic was his client Matt Holliday and the question involved the Mets' ability to sign the free-agent slugger, who is seeking a deal similar to the eight-year contract Mark Teixeira received from the Yankees.
"The Mets have a [TV] network and they have an infrastructure there that is a juggernaut economically," Boras said. "The YES network is a multi-billion dollar network and franchise and the infrastructure that they've built with the SNY network follows. They've got a brand new ballpark, they're in New York City and their revenues are in the top three or four in baseball.
"The New York Mets have a lot of choices and the Wilpon family is very successful. Sure, the Mets can sign any player they want to sign if they so choose to."
But the Wilpons, as well as Omar Minaya, didn't need Boras to tell them how to do their offseason business. The Mets already have been in discussions with Boras on Holliday in addition to talks with the agents for John Lackey and Jason Bay.
The team's highest priority remains acquiring one of these so-called Big Three, with Lackey at the top of that short list. The Cardinals already have said they would not go to $100 million over five years on Holliday and Bay turned down a four-year, $60-million deal from the Red Sox on the eve of unrestricted free agency.
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The Mets understand the importance of signing a marquee name to re-energize the franchise. Pairing Lackey with Johan Santana would be the fastest way to significantly upgrade the team overall and his agent, Steve Hilliard, told Minaya on Tuesday that geography is not an issue. Lackey is open to pitching in New York.
The problem could be the price. With a strong pitching market - Randy Wolf finalized a three-year, $29.75-million contract Wednesday from the Brewers - Lackey should get a five-year deal in excess of A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million of a year ago. If the Mets lose out on Lackey, Minaya would then turn his attention to Holliday.
"I've said all along, you always want to improve the pitching whenever you can," Minaya said. "But that being said, with our situation last year and what's available in the marketplace and what's available in a trade, a lot of it's just going to be timing. We can go either way. We can go pitching or we can go offense. Right now it's more a timing issue. If an agent wants to get a deal done, that can determine which way you want to go - offense or pitching."
But the longer the Mets wait, the bigger the risk of losing out on their top choices. The Cardinals want to re-sign Holliday in part to protect Albert Pujols and maybe even help their efforts to keep Pujols from leaving St. Louis after his walk year in 2011. The Red Sox seem to prefer Bay, but if Bay signs elsewhere, Boston will be serious competition for Holliday.
As of now, Minaya is content to let the market further develop. But the Mets also have had internal discussions about how much they are willing to pay for Lackey, Bay or Holliday as they consider making offers in the very near future.
"Scott is not one to rush to get a deal done," Minaya said.
Apparently, neither are the Mets, who did not anticipate leaving the winter meetings with any new acquisitions by the time they wrap up this morning with the Rule 5 draft.