PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The hopefuls roamed the outfield Friday, their eyes adjusting quickly to the high Florida sun. They don't have to be here for several more days, but a few of them have arrived early, motivated by the Mets' clear need for outfielders.

"It's an exciting opportunity as always, just to come back to camp and have a chance to be with the big-league club," Mike Baxter said Friday, shortly before a workout at the team's minor-league complex. "In addition to that, I want to show that I could be a starting guy here. That's exciting to have that."

Pitchers and catchers don't report until Monday and position players aren't due until Feb. 16. Nevertheless, Baxter joined the likes of Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis for early workouts.

It can only help the Mets, who cut ties with Jason Bay before losing both Scott Hairston and Andres Torres in free agency. Replacements have been tough to come by.

Top-end free agents proved too expensive and the Mets eventually dropped out of trade talks for Justin Upton because the Diamondbacks insisted on receiving pitching prospects Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler in return.

"What outfield?" general manager Sandy Alderson, who has been grappling with how to fill the gaping holes, joked earlier in the winter.

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Months later, the situation is far from settled. Free agent Michael Bourn remains in play even though he once was thought to be out of the Mets' price range. But his signing still appears to be a long shot.

Without him, the Mets must solve their outfield quandary from a pool of platoon players who must prove they can handle the rigors of a major-league job.

Righthanded-hitting Collin Cowgill, acquired from the A's via an offseason trade, adds some balance to a lefty-heavy group fronted by Duda, who appears slated for a spot in leftfield. The Mets also signed Andrew Brown and Marlon Byrd to minor-league deals with invites to major-league camp.

From that group, the Mets hope a surprise emerges, one ready to take on greater responsibilities.

"It's all about consistency," Baxter said. "It's all about showing you can perform day in and day out."

Reliever Lyon signed

The Mets officially signed reliever Brandon Lyon to a one-year contract that could be worth as much as $2.4 million with incentives. Lyon, 33, joins starting pitcher Shaun Marcum as the only major-league free- agent additions this winter.

Lyon went 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 67 appearances with the Astros and Blue Jays last season, enjoying a strong season after rebounding from shoulder surgery in 2011.