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Mets' talks with Bay, Molina affect each other

The Mets hope to resolve their pursuit of Jason Bay very shortly - this week, ideally - but think their negotiations with Bengie Molina will drag on longer.

That reflects how far apart they are in their talks with Molina, and it also reflects a strategy - and the notion that in the Mets' minds, the fates and salaries of Bay and Molina are tied together.

On Dec. 10, the Mets made offers of four years for about $65 million to Bay and two years for about $10 million to Molina. According to a Mets official, if the team fails to secure Bay, it will strongly consider raising its offer to Molina. But if Bay signs, the Mets will hold a harder line with Molina.

The thinking ties back into the Mets' desire to improve their team's offense. Club decision-makers opted to go for Bay and Molina with the thought that the duo would raise the offensive production from two positions that gave the Mets little in 2009.

Bay, 31, wants a fifth guaranteed year, and the Mets have indicated a willingness to offer a fifth year at a lower annual salary. Bay has established himself as one of the better-hitting corner outfielders in the game. In 2009 with the Red Sox, he had a .384 on-base percentage and .537 slugging percentage, hitting a career-high 36 homers.

Molina, 35, doesn't have as impressive a resume. He does hit for power; he slammed a career-high 20 homers for the Giants in 2009. But his on-base percentage has been below .300 two of the past three seasons. This past year, he recorded a woeful .285 OBP, which means he'll be in line to kill many a rally for the Mets or whichever team signs him.

If Bay signs with another team - at the moment, he doesn't appear to have any comparable offers from other teams - the Yankees will have to reassess the market for outfielders. The Angels are looking to trade Juan Rivera, whom Omar Minaya acquired from the Yankees when he was the Expos' general manager in 2003.

The Mets have maintained contact with agent Scott Boras regarding Matt Holliday, but the communication hasn't been steady. The Mets think Bay's tendency to pull the ball will make him a better hitter at Citi Field than Holliday, who is thought of as more of a gap hitter.

>> PHOTOS: Click for Ken Davidoff's analysis of the most valuable free agents, based on Wins Above Replacement

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