The Mets intend to be among the serious bidders for righthander John Lackey when baseball's free agents finally hit the open market next Friday at 12:01 a.m.
General manager Omar Minaya received a favorable first impression from the pitcher's agent when the two spoke this week, and Lackey figures to be near the top of the club's wish list in the weeks ahead.
The pursuit of Lackey could be similar to the Mets' concerted efforts to lock up Francisco Rodriguez in the opening days of last year's winter meetings in Las Vegas. The Mets identified K-Rod as their main objective, and with other big-market teams uninterested, they grabbed him with a lower-than-expected three-year, $37-million deal.
It's unclear where the market is going for Lackey. But with Roy Halladay the only other true No. 1 starter available, Lackey could shoot for the $100-million range. The Mets may have too many other needs to go quite that high. Still, it would be tempting to pair him with Johan Santana as the best 1-2 tandem in the NL East.
As for those other holes to fill, Minaya said Friday that he plans to watch Carlos Delgado audition next month in the Puerto Rican winter league. Delgado, 37, remains a question mark as he tries to return from surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. But if he proves himself healthy in Puerto Rico, he could be a relatively low-cost source of power at first base.
The problem with scouting Delgado is that the winter league does not begin until mid-December and the winter meetings take place Dec. 7-10 in Indianapolis. Another indication that the Mets could be targeting Delgado is this week's focus on Chone Figgins, who would be used primarily at second base and leftfield.
If the Mets intend to employ Figgins in left as part of their speed configuration, as a person familiar with the club's thinking said, that would appear to rule out Jason Bay or Matt Holliday - the two big-ticket solutions for that spot. Under that plan, the Mets could be stuck with Luis Castillo, whose playing time would be reduced.
One position that appears set for 2010 is rightfield, where the Mets will keep Jeff Francoeur, who is arbitration-eligible this winter. Minaya said Francoeur will be back, but it seems unlikely that he will get involved in talks for an extension.Notes & quotes: The Mets are renovating the rightfield bullpens at Citi Field so visiting players will have better sightlines for the game. Last season, their view was obstructed so badly that they needed TVs in the visiting bullpen, and the Padres' Heath Bell even went into the stands to watch . . . The Mets announced Friday that their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic will serve as the base for international operations. The $8-million facility also will absorb their players from the Venezuelan summer league.
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