NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- At some point, the Mets and star pitcher R.A. Dickey must make decisions about the future.
At some point, Dickey must weigh a contract extension and the Mets must decide whether he should be traded.
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At some point, this two-month dance between the parties must come to an end.
But Mets general manager Sandy Alderson isn't viewing this week's winter meetings as an unofficial deadline.
"R.A.'s situation needs to be resolved,'' he said. "But it doesn't necessarily have to be resolved here in Nashville before Thursday. I think we'll have a lot more information by the end of Thursday, both in terms of his negotiation as well as other options.''
For the Mets, those options are clear: Hammer out a multi-year extension with Dickey, trade him in hopes of recovering some value, or keep him to play out the final year of his contract.
If a new deal isn't reached, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said he'd prefer the latter option. But Alderson said yesterday he wants to avoid the distractions that will accompany Dickey if he returns with no commitment past next season.
"That's a situation I'd prefer to avoid,'' Alderson said, echoing Dickey's own reservations.
Of course, the Mets haven't made significant progress on either of their first two options.
Dickey, who lives in Nashville, reiterated his desire to stay with the Mets. But he also said a new deal isn't close.
Progress with Dickey stalled partly because the Mets were finalizing David Wright's eight-year, $138-million contract, which is expected to become official this week. But Alderson expects Dickey's agent, Bo McKinnis, who also lives in Nashville, to visit to continue talks.
"I don't think we've gotten to the point where we have two positions that can't be bridged,'' said Alderson, who visited with Dickey for about 10 minutes, though his contract wasn't discussed. "We may get to that point, but I don't think there's been enough 'to and fro' at this point to know that.''
Meanwhile, the Mets will use the week to gauge Dickey's value on the trade market, where he already has been a popular subject of speculation. If they choose to pursue trades, the Mets could bolster his trade value by offering negotiating windows to potential trade partners, allowing them to work out an extension before a trade.
But Alderson said the Mets have yet to consider offering such windows, another indication that talks have been slow.
Though Dickey's situation looms as the most pressing issue, the Mets also must scour the free agent and trade markets for help in the outfield, at catcher and in the bullpen.
"There are free agents out there who can help us that are in our price range,'' Alderson said.
The Mets are willing to push for multiyear deals to attract an outfielder, a source has said. But Alderson said filling all of the needs through free agency is unlikely.