Except for Lucas Duda, Mets' outfield wide open

Lucas Duda prepares for batting practice during a Lucas Duda prepares for batting practice during a spring training workout at Tradition Field. (Feb. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The exact names may not yet be known. The precise combinations not yet clear. But for better or worse, the players who eventually will form the Mets' outfield are likely already here in camp.

After missing out on signing free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn, the Mets remain on the lookout for trade possibilities, though a person familiar with the team's thinking said no moves look to be on the horizon. If that's the case, the Mets will enter spring training with two of three outfield spots up for grabs. Only Lucas Duda is penciled in as the starter in leftfield.

"Certainly, I think he's earned it," manager Terry Collins said on Tuesday, though the assurances ended there.

Up until Monday night, when Bourn signed with the Indians, the Mets had been in the hunt for the two-time All-Star. One source said the Mets had kept tabs on Bourn early in the offseason just in case his market softened and he fell to within the team's price range.

That preparation paid off. As camps opened, Bourn had yet to sign.

After some internal debate, the Mets eventually put together a four-year deal worth roughly $48 million. However, Bourn would have had to wait a few more weeks for a panel of arbitrators to rule on whether the signing would cost the Mets their 11th overall pick in the June amateur draft.

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A source said Bourn was "intrigued" by playing in New York, though he ultimately didn't want to wait for a decision on the Mets' draft-pick issue. He signed a four-year, $48-million deal with the Indians, who included a vesting option for a fifth year. The deal could be worth $60 million over five years.

For the Mets, it was too much of a commitment.

"Four [years] was a stretch," the source said. "Five was a non-starter."

According to a person with knowledge of the Mets' thinking, enough budget flexibility remains in case another opportunity emerges to improve the outfield. But until then, it remains a puzzle to be pieced together by Collins and his staff.

Duda, who will start in left, hit 15 homers last season.

"The other two spots, we'll see what the best fits are," Collins said.

At least nine players have a chance at four remaining spots. Righthanded hitters include Collin Cowgill and nonroster invitees Andrew Brown, Jamie Hoffman and Marlon Byrd. Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are among the options from the left side.

Although they're infielders by trade, Zach Lutz and Justin Turner will get looks in the outfield during spring training. Jordany Valdespin also falls into that category, though he spent most of winter ball playing in the outfield.

The Mets have stockpiled plenty of choices. But with spring training just getting under way, Collins is keeping an open mind about how the outfield ultimately rounds into shape.

"Are we going to platoon? I don't know," Collins said. "We might. But we've got some names and we'll certainly give them a chance to win some jobs."

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