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Bay, Bosox seem to be parting ways; will Mets up offer?

Jason Bay #44 of the Boston Red Sox

Jason Bay #44 of the Boston Red Sox bats during a game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park. (August 1, 2008) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Mets were in wait-and-see mode with Jason Bay Saturday as the free-agent leftfielder apparently snubbed the Red Sox and a mystery team reportedly went to five years on a contract offer.

Heading into the weekend, the Mets seemed to have the high bid at four years and roughly $65 million. Boston had not budged from last month's rejected four-year, $60-million offer.

If a third team did in fact go to five years, as Boston's WEEI reported yesterday, it would not be surprising for the Mets to follow suit. Mets officials acknowledged at the end of the winter meetings that this will be a "back-and-forth" process, even as the Mets had identified Bay and free-agent catcher Bengie Molina as their early targets.

The Red Sox figured to be one of the biggest competitors for Bay, but his agent, Joe Urbon, told Fox Sports that he is "moving on" because of a difference of opinion on Bay's value. Mets officials were encouraged by that revelation, but a person familiar with the situation said the Mets were not the club that upped the offer to five years - at least not yet.

The Mets always have been fond of vesting options when it comes to luring free agents, and that probably is even more true now after the plague of injuries they endured in 2009. Better to trigger the additional years and money by staying on the field rather than have it all guaranteed up front.

With the Mariners and possibly the Angels reportedly involved with Bay, the Mets had no feeling for a timeline on a possible deal.

Mets officials also said they had not made an offer to John Lackey despite reports that said they may have done so. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't happen.

One person familiar with the Mets' thinking said Bay remains their primary concern, and to a lesser degree Molina, but it is not the full extent of their winter blueprint. The Mets were holding back on offers to other free agents before hearing back from Bay, and there are indications that Lackey very much remains on their radar.

As one person familiar with the situation said, the Mets have not ruled anything out, and they could focus on Lackey if Bay slips through their fingers.

As for Matt Holliday, the Cardinals had given the free-agent slugger until Sunday to respond to their initial offer, but it seemed doubtful that the Scott Boras client would decide that quickly.

With Bay out of the mix in Boston, the Red Sox could turn to Holliday if St. Louis passes or try to sign free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre instead. With the market still undetermined for the biggest free agents, it probably will take one signing to set the rest in motion.

"Once a domino or two goes off the board," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said this past week, "we'll see it spur the trades or spur the signings."

Notes & quotes: Alex Cora, who recently signed a one-year, $2-million contract, reportedly left Thursday's game in Puerto Rico with back pain. The Mets had no word on the extent of the injury . . . The Mets announced that Cory Sullivan, Tim Redding, Jeremy Reed and Lance Broadway were non-tendered before yesterday's midnight deadline, making them free agents.

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