While preparing for what a team source called a "number of different eventualities," the Mets have reached out to a wide range of possible fallback options, including former Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal and longtime Brewers outfielder Corey Hart.
For the Mets, who enter an offseason of heightened expectations, neither is a marquee name.
Nevertheless, a person with knowledge of the team's thinking cautioned against interpreting the Mets' early contacts as a sign that they'll shy away from high-priced, high-profile free-agent targets.
"Other than [Robinson] Cano, I just don't see anybody who you could say 'OK, we're definitely not going to be in play there,' " the source said yesterday. "You just don't know how it's all going to play out."
Cano stands at the top of the free-agent food chain, poised to demand a contract that will stretch to perhaps eight years and will likely exceed $200 million. Though the Mets have no plans of awarding a contract of that magnitude, they still see themselves as potential suitors for the rest of the game's top free agents, a group that includes the likes of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.
With more than $40 million in expiring contracts, the Mets expect to have the financial flexibility to pursue talent through free agency or in a trade.
Also, the Mets could sign a top free agent without surrendering their 10th overall selection in next year's draft, which is protected because they finished with one of the 10 worst records in the league.
Meanwhile, the source said the Mets have seen promising signs on the trade market, which they anticipate will present viable alternatives.
The Mets have prioritized adding some power to the lineup, specifically in the outfield and at shortstop, where Ruben Tejada's swift regression created what the source called an offensive "black hole."
Though general manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets won't pursue a top-end starting pitcher, he will look to add a sturdy arm to the middle of the rotation.
So far, the Mets have focused their energies on casting a wide net, engaging players who may be seen strictly as alternate options. But with the general managers' meetings starting next week in Orlando, both the free-agent market and the trade market should be better defined for the Mets.
Said the source: "It's way too early to rule anybody out."