ORLANDO, Fla. - Two years ago, superagent Scott Boras insulted the frugal Mets, saying their financial woes forced them to stay in the fruits and nuts aisle of baseball's free-agent supermarket.
Last year, Boras offered only a modest upgrade, saying the cash-strapped Mets had graduated to the freezer section. And on Wednesday, at the general managers' meetings, Boras used another metaphor to highlight the Mets' failure to launch.
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"The Mets are like NASA," said Boras, who represents Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, free agents thought to be out of the Mets' price range. "They have big rockets, lots of platforms, and very few astronauts. Astronauts are hard to find."
But for the first time in years, the Mets maintain that they have the resources to add talent. And shortly after Boras' annual jab, a source said Mets officials held a face-to-face meeting with free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Talks remain in the preliminary stage, much like the rest of the Mets' overtures in the free-agent and trade markets, according to team insiders. Nevertheless, the meeting exemplified the progress the Mets say they have made in terms of laying the groundwork for deals.
General manager Sandy Alderson declined to name the player involved in the meeting, which he described as a product of circumstance as opposed to a planned event.
"It just happened he was here with his agent," Alderson said. "But anytime you get a chance to meet directly with players, it's a positive thing.''
The sit-down with Peralta fit within the Mets' wide-ranging goal here. Although they have been linked to free agents Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson, team insiders said no moves are imminent with the club still focused on assessing the market.
Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon described his early read of free-agent price tags "scary.'' Nevertheless, he insisted that the Mets would pursue opportunities to add talent.
The addition of Peralta would address what a team official recently called an offensive "black hole'' at shortstop, which was occupied mostly by underachieving Ruben Tejada and utilityman Omar Quintanilla. Mets shortstops combined for a .561 on-base plus slugging percentage, worst in the National League.
Peralta would be an instant upgrade, though he comes with some risk. He served a 50-game suspension for for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Still, in 107 games for the Tigers, Peralta hit .303 with 11 homers. Due for a multiyear deal, he will make more in one year of his next contract than the modest $5 million the Mets spent last season on their two free-agent signings.
The Mets also remain in the early stages in trade talks about first basemen Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. Both have drawn interest, but a team official said the Mets have not had any offers.
However, a team official said the organization is growing more optimistic about trading Davis or Duda for a prospect or to fill another need. While both have flaws, both are viewed by rival executives as lower-cost alternatives in a marketplace starved for power.
However, there are no indications of a move coming anytime soon. The market will have an influx of players after the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline, making a trade before that period unlikely, a team insider said.
With Erik Boland and David Lennon