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Mets check off first GM interview, with Baird

Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the NY

Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the NY Mets, left, and Fred Wilpon, owner of the NY Mets, appear at a news conference held at Citi Field. (Oct. 4, 2010) Credit: Errol Anderson

The Mets began the first round of interviews for their vacant general manager position Monday with Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird, who probably is a long-shot candidate, given a failed six-year stint with the Royals that ended in 2006.

Next up is White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn, who will interview today, to be followed Wednesday by former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes, who was fired by Arizona earlier this season. Sandy Alderson will be in to interview Thursday or Friday, but the team has not specified which day.

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said last week that there likely will be two rounds of interviews before deciding on a general manager. Even before Omar Minaya's firing became official, the Mets discussed a group of roughly 30 prospective candidates. They narrowed that to about seven before making calls for permission.

With Pat Gillick taking himself out of consideration and the Marlins refusing to let assistant GM Dan Jennings speak with their division rival, that left the Mets to focus on the four candidates they have invited in this week.

The Mets have yet to announce any additional names, but they would like to have a GM in place before the start of the World Series, which begins Oct. 27.

Baird, 48, spent most of Monday afternoon with Wilpon and assistant GM John Ricco, and a Mets spokesman characterized the talks as "very productive." Baird also is the director of professional scouting for the Red Sox, and is highly regarded in that position despite getting fired by the Royals after three 100-loss seasons in Kansas City.

The Mets have not publicly expressed any preference, but Alderson is considered to be the front-runner. He has a wealth of experience as former Athletics GM and Padres CEO, as well as favored status with commissioner Bud Selig, who has a close relationship with Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon.

As Newsday reported last week, if Alderson is hired as GM, that might lead to Minaya's staying with the Mets, perhaps in a scouting capacity.

When the Mets announced Minaya's firing Oct. 4, Baird's name was the only one of these first-round candidates not to appear on the initial speculative lists for his replacement. Of course, the Mets' job comes with greater resources than what Baird had at his disposal in Kansas City, which never had a payroll above $47 million during his tenure. That also prompted Baird to trade Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye with all of them due significant raises either through free agency or arbitration.

Among the biggest challenges the next GM faces with the Mets is figuring out what to do with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and, to a lesser extent, Beltran.

Perez and Castillo are headed into the final years of their contracts and are due $12 million and $6 million, respectively. Beltran probably is untradeable this winter because of lingering concerns about his arthritic knees. He will earn $18.5 million in 2011, the last season of his deal.

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