The Mets spent months negotiating with Bengie Molina and Tuesday those talks proved fruitless as the catcher returned to the Giants for a one-year, $4.5-million contract.
With Molina off the board, the Mets likely will reach out to the representatives for Yorvit Torrealba, the free-agent catcher with whom the Mets are currently entangled in a grievance over an agreement that fell apart two years ago.
But the Mets also have discussed internally the possibility of standing pat with their current group of catchers: newcomer Henry Blanco and returnees Omir Santos and Josh Thole. The rookie Thole could start the 2010 season as an everyday player for Triple-A Buffalo and come to the majors when the need arises.
The Mets recently made a final offer to Molina - "take it or leave it," as the Mets termed it - for one year and slightly more than $5 million. With less money now being earmarked toward the catcher position, and with the Mets not getting an offensive upgrade that they envisioned from Molina, the club could redistribute that money to other areas.
For instance, the Mets still are scouting free agent Carlos Delgado in Puerto Rico, and a person in the loop said that Delgado, after a rusty beginning, was starting to hit slightly more like his old self. The Mets could bring back Delgado for a low base salary with attainable incentives.
Starting pitching remains a top priority, even though the free-agent market has moved very slowly. Joel Piñeiro is the Mets' top choice among remaining starters, and the Mets have maintained contact with the righthander, as have the Dodgers and reportedly the Angels.
Tuesday, the Mets sent rehabilitation specialist Chris Correnti to Louisiana to watch free agent Ben Sheets throw for interested clubs. Sheets, a former ace for Milwaukee, missed the entire 2009 season because of right elbow surgery.
Sheets was "just about what you'd expect" at the session, said an official from another club. The 31-year-old threw three "innings," taking breaks in a simulated game, and started to wear down in the third "inning."
The Rangers are viewed as the favorites to sign Sheets. Their pitching coach Mike Maddux - Sheets' pitching coach with Milwaukee from 2003 through 2008 - attended the session, and Sheets lives in the Dallas area. The expectation is that Sheets will get a contract similar to what the Rangers gave Rich Harden, another injury risk, who will make $7.5 million.
Meanwhile, on the day that players and teams submitted figures for arbitration, the Mets avoided the process with three of their eligible players, coming to terms with outfielder Jeff Francoeur ($5 million) and relievers Pedro Feliciano ($2.9 million) and Sean Green ($975,000). Their lone remaining unsigned, arbitration-eligible player is outfielder Angel Pagan, who submitted a figure of $1.8 million to the team's $1.275 million.