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Mets' Minaya: Bay isn't only outfielder we're looking at

Omar Minaya says the Mets are looking into

Omar Minaya says the Mets are looking into several other outfield options if Red Sox slugger Jason Bay doesn't sign. Credit: Getty Images

Jason Bay remains the Mets' primary target this offseason, and the Mets remain in communication with the outfielder, who doesn't appear to have any other serious suitors.

But the Mets' patience does have a limit, Omar Minaya said yesterday. "Jason Bay isn't the only free-agent [outfielder] we're looking at," Minaya told Newsday in a telephone interview. " . . . At some point, we have to consider other plans."

Minaya declined to identify those other plans, but the market features a good number of free-agent outfielders. On the high end, there's Matt Holliday, with whom the Mets have stayed in regular communication (via agent Scott Boras) but haven't displayed any serious interest.

On the lower end, Marlon Byrd, Johnny Damon, Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady and Randy Winn top the list of everyday outfielders. The Mets have a greater need for a lefthanded hitter; Damon hits lefty, while Winn is a switch-hitter who hits slightly better from the left side.

On Dec. 10, the Mets extended Bay a four-year offer for about $65 million. Bay wants at least a five-year deal, and the Mets have indicated to Bay that they'd be willing to go a fifth year for fewer dollars per season.

When Newsday asked Minaya whether he believes Bay has a sincere interest in playing for the Mets, Minaya said, "Yes."

The Boston-based radio station WEEI reported on its Web site yesterday that the Red Sox have held "internal discussions" about bringing back Bay, who rejected the team's four-year, $60-million offer. In order to act upon those discussions, the Red Sox surely would have to make another move, as they currently have three starting outfielders (newcomer Mike Cameron and holdovers J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury) as well as two designated hitters (Mike Lowell and David Ortiz).

The Mets also remain at a standstill with free-agent catcher Bengie Molina, who wants a three-year deal for about $20 million while the Mets have offered two years for about $10 million. Moreover, the Mets are examining the markets for both starting pitchers and relievers, and they intend to add another starter, with pitchers like Jon Garland and Joel Piñeiro on their radar.

Free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson has interested the Mets each of the last two offseasons, yet the team failed to find a taker for current second baseman Luis Castillo. Hudson, therefore, doesn't top the team's priority list.

Minaya acknowledged that the slow pace of the Mets' winter had upset many fans, and that he understood why. "There are years when our winters were easy and quick," he said. "This has been different."

The Mets' office will be open for a half-day today, and no matter where he is physically, Minaya said, he'll be pressing to move forward on the Mets' offseason moves.

"I'll be working on Christmas Day and New Year's Day," he said, and every day in between, too.

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