CHICAGO - The Mets know they need an upgrade at catcher, and that this is a buyer's market for catchers, with a number of options available.
But the team is eyeing a particularly pricey selection. For Bengie Molina would cost more than just money. He will also likely cost a draft pick.
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Molina, a longtime object of the Mets' affections, is the top free-agent catcher, as per the standards of the Elias rankings. The 35-year-old is the only catcher on the open market who has a Type A classification.
The Giants are likely to offer Molina salary arbitration, according to a person familiar with San Francisco's thinking, as they would like to bring back the eldest of the catching Molina brothers, who hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2009. Once Molina gets the arbitration offer, then the Mets would have to surrender a draft pick as well as the money necessary to land him.
Because the Mets, having finished 70-92 this past season, draft seventh overall, their first-round pick is protected. So they would have to give up their second-round pick, and - should they sign additional Type A free agents - their third-round, fourth-round selection and so on.
It's a relevant issue for a club that has a farm system considered to be mediocre at best, and which needs to restock its inventory of young, talented players. The team that drafted seventh last year, the Braves, had the 56th overall selection in last year's second round, once the "sandwich-round picks" were picked between the first and second round. The Dodgers received that pick as compensation for Atlanta's signing of Derek Lowe, who is now on the trading block.
The Mets have historically not minded giving away draft picks, figuring the money they spent on major-league free agents would then be saved on the draft. Since Omar Minaya took over as general manager, the Mets have signed Type A free agents Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou and Francisco Rodriguez.
Molina first captured Minaya's eye after the 2005 season, when Mike Piazza wrapped up his time with the Mets. Minaya and his lieutenants drove from the GMs' meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., to Molina's Arizona home, and they eventually extended Molina an offer.
As they continue looking for help, the Mets have reportedly expressed an interest in free agent Chone Figgins, who could fill their leftfield void. Here at the GMs' meetings, they met with agent Arn Tellem, who represents free-agent pitchers Rich Harden, Vicente Padilla, Joel Piñeiro and Randy Wolf.