NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Mets will likely spend the rest of the winter meetings feeling out the trade market in an effort to maximize the potential return for reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
But if the Mets come away without an attractive deal, they appear positioned to pick up long-term contract talks with Dickey, which will essentially be on hold until the team finishes gauging the market.
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"I'm optimistic we can get something done with them," Dickey's agent, Bo McKinnis, said Tuesday. "But we understand that if it's in their best interest to move us. We're prepared, and we understand."
Even as Dickey continues to attract interest from rival clubs, and the Mets sort through various offers, a long-term extension remains a possibility. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who met briefly with McKinnis on Monday, said retaining Dickey is still his preference. "The sentiment that we've had from the beginning I think remains the same," Alderson said. "We'd like to have him in New York."
The sticking point remains the ultimate dollar value of an extension. "In terms of years and structure, we're agreeable on multiple structures," McKinnis said. "Sandy has been good about that. It's just a matter of getting the dollars right."
McKinnis refused to speak in detail about Dickey's demands though he shot down speculation that Dickey has requested a four-year extension to stay with the Mets past 2013.
"They somewhat have a choice to make," McKinnis said. "Do they invest financially or are they better served going out into the trade market. We're fine either way. I'm not comfortable talking to dollars, but I don't mind saying we're doing everything on our end to be fair. I don't think we're being unfair, and I think Sandy is trying to do the same as well."
In the meantime, the Mets have kept their focus on gaining a better understanding of Dickey's value on the trade market, a process that Alderson said is still ongoing. Several teams have shown some level of interest, including the Rangers and Red Sox. The Brewers engaged in talks though nothing came of them.
Meanwhile, a source said the Royals and Mets discussed a trade involving Dickey and highly regarded outfield prospect Wil Myers. But talks didn't get far partly because of the Royals' hesitance to deal Myers and the Mets' reservations about giving up an additional piece in the deal.
With Dickey trade talks in the background, the Mets have done some work to address other needs. Alderson met with the agent of Scott Hairston about a potential reunion with the Mets, who are in need of righthanded bats and help in the outfield. Though Alderson said he would exercise caution, he left the door open for backloading contracts, allowing the Mets to offer multi-year deals if needed.
The Mets might need that extra flexibility if they are to come away from the meetings with an outfielder. Still, the focus remains mostly on deciding what to do with Dickey.
Fellow pitcher Jonathon Niese had been expected to generate plenty of trade interest of his own. But Alderson said the lefthander has hardly been mentioned, with most of the attention going toward Dickey.
Alderson said that if the sides could agree on the dollar value of a new deal, it would "probably close the door" on the Mets' efforts to feel out the trade market. But barring an unexpected shift, the process will continue to play out past the winter meetings, with Dickey's long-term fate up in the air.
"I used the phrase with Sandy," McKinnis said. "We're big boys. If we end up going to another team, it's just fine. Sandy has a job to do and we respect that. We'll take what comes."