Mets starter Chris Young pitches to the Los Angeles Dodgers...

Mets starter Chris Young pitches to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning. (June 28, 2012) Credit: AP

With spring training only a month away, baseball's free-agent market has hit a lull, with clubs holding out to take advantage of falling price tags as the season draws near. The Mets and Yankees still have holes to fill before the opening of camp, but both appear willing to play the waiting game.

A person familiar with the Mets' thinking said the club is "trying to let this play out a little longer'' in hopes of scoring bargains in the pitching market. A person with knowledge of the Yankees' situation hinted that they could be done making major moves despite a glaring need for another righthanded hitter.

Those comments provided more telltale signs that baseball's annual battle of wills has arrived, with players still on the market increasingly forced to re-evaluate their contract demands while clubs wait for bargains to emerge.

The market still includes high-profile targets such as former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano, outfielder Michael Bourn, starting pitcher Kyle Lohse and relatively strong pithing depth.

The budget-conscious Mets look to be in good position to take advantage as they remain focused on adding a back-end starting pitcher and veteran help in the bullpen. The Mets are "pretty comfortable with the options'' left on the board, according to a source. Those options include veterans Carl Pavano, Shaun Marcum and Chris Young, the righthander who stepped into their rotation last season and could reprise that role in 2013.

Though the Mets have cast a wide net in their search for a fifth starter, the club has yet to progress past preliminary talks, content to let the market develop before making a push to sign players. The same goes in their search for relievers, a market that includes several former closers.

The Mets have not ruled out a reunion with righthanded reliever Jon Rauch, though with choices on the pitching market, they believe they can afford to wait.

"Just looking around the league, there just haven't been that many signings recently,'' the source said. "It tells me that demands will start coming in line with what we expect them to be.''

The waiting game also continues when it comes to adding some help in the outfield. The Mets again have shown interest in trading for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, though a deal appears unlikely unless Arizona eases its demand for high-end prospects in return.

Nationals outfielder Michael Morse, a righthanded hitter who would be a fit for the Mets and Yankees, has been made available. Righthanded-hitting outfielder Scott Hairston remains a target, though he is searching for a two-year deal.

The Mets have maintained contact with Hairston's representatives throughout the winter, a source said, and the team is positioned to offer at least one multiyear deal, most likely to an outfielder. The Yankees also have been a suitor, though they continue to balk at Hairston's asking price, seemingly content to wait him out.


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