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Mets hope to hear back from Bay by Friday

The Mets hope to hear back from Jason Bay as soon as Friday. They don't anticipate hearing back from Bengie Molina so quickly.

Meanwhile, as they slogged along with their major pursuits, the Mets Thursday finalized their most meaningful acquisition - to date - of the offseason. Japanese righthander Ryota Igarashi, signed to a two-year, $3-million contract, will be a top candidate to be the setup man for Francisco Rodriguez.

Bay has been contemplating a four-year offer for about $65 million from the Mets, first extended last week. The Mets have indicated to Bay that they'd be willing to guarantee a fifth year, but with a lower base salary.

It's possible that Bay could accept one of those offers Friday, although it's more likely that he'll counter with a different proposal. With the Red Sox out of the Bay sweepstakes, the Mets are wary of bidding against themselves. The Mariners (concerns about Bay's defense), Angels (more focused on getting a starting pitcher) and Giants (not willing to spend the money) all seem to be trailing the Mets, who view Bay as a much-needed slugging outfielder.

Although the Mets don't want to overpay for Bay, there's also an understanding within the organization that Citi Field could work as a deterrent to hitters who want to compile strong individual numbers for future contracts. That could nudge the Mets to offer a little more.

The Molina negotiations have lost steam because of the veteran catcher's request for a three-year contract. The Mets, already leery of committing a second year to the 35-year-old, are content to wait out Molina, whom they want for his power and his perceived ability to work well with pitchers, until his demands drop. There don't appear to be other teams willing to pay Molina the two years and $10 million the Mets would like to commit to him.

Igarashi, 30, spent the past 12 years pitching for the Yakult Swallows of Japan's Central League. He recorded 630 strikeouts in 570 innings, posting a 47-29 record with 54 saves and a 3.25 ERA in 507 games.

A scout from another major- league team who has seen Igarashi pitch often said, when informed of the $3-million contract, "That's probably in the ballpark." He added of the pitcher, "He has a very good arm. He's a fastball-split guy. He can get it up close to the mid-90s most of the time. The split-finger is a pretty good pitch for him. He'll fill into that setup role real well."

The Mets also intend to add a starting pitcher, with free agents such as Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Jason Marquis and Joel Piñeiro in the mix. But they hope to wrap up their biggest move the soonest.

General manager Omar Minaya, meanwhile, spent another day participating in the grievance hearing for Yorvit Torrealba, the free-agent catcher who wants compensation for an agreement that the Mets, citing a failed physical, negated two years ago.

New York Sports