If the Mets fail to sign R.A. Dickey and David Wright to long-term deals this winter, conventional thinking dictates that both would be shopped in the trade market, allowing the team to salvage some value for parting ways with their two brightest stars.
But chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Tuesday that trades would be only a last resort, and that if deals can't be reached, he'd rather have both play out the final year of their deals. The goal remains signing both to long-term extensions.
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"That's the first preference; that has been the first preference," Wilpon said. "Second preference is probably keep them and have them play out the season. Third preference would be to trade them. They're both very important to the franchise, they're both fan favorites, so we'd like to keep it that way."
Wilpon declined to elaborate on why he believes trades are the least desirable option.
"We're dealing in hypothetical now," he said. "So I don't want to go there. In terms of right now, the process is ongoing, and we want to get something done."
The Mets exercised options to pay Wright $16 million and Dickey $5 million. But both are free agents after 2013, and if the Mets hang on to them only to let them walk, they'd be left with only draft picks as compensation.
Nearly two months have passed since the end of the season and both Dickey and Wright remain without new deals despite the Mets' hopes of signing them quickly. Until Tuesday, the Mets seemed more optimistic about retaining Wright, while Dickey's name has surfaced in trade talks.
Nevertheless, Wilpon dismissed speculation about the talks as "some misconception in the marketplace about what's going on," while insisting that he's grown more optimistic about getting both deals done.
"Certainly, it's gotten better because there's conversation going back and forth," he said from the United Methodist Center in Far Rockaway, where he joined pitcher Matt Harvey in distributing meals to residents who are still reeling from the effects of superstorm Sandy.
Harvey hopes that Dickey, the NL Cy Young Award winner, returns next season.
"We all hope he's back," Harvey said. "And hopefully, we have a good staff."
Notes & quotes: Ike Davis and CC Sabathia will be honored at the 33rd annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Feb. 5 . . . The Mets signed lefthander Scott Rice, righty Carlos Torres and outfielder Jamie Hoffmann to minor-league deals . . . The Mets protected six players from the Rule 5 draft by adding them to their 40-man roster: righthanders Zack Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Gonzalez Germen and Greg Burke, lefty Darin Gorski and infielder Wilfredo Tovar. The roster stands at 39.