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Mets hope Santana strategy will work with Halladay

Roy Halladay is not a free agent, but

Roy Halladay is not a free agent, but will get a lot of attention from many teams. (March 27, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

CHICAGO - The Mets' farm system is mediocre at best, but then again, it wasn't very good two years ago, either, and they wound up acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins.

That accomplishment makes the Mets believe that they at least have a chance to acquire Roy Halladay, and that's why Omar Minaya and his lieutenants intended to communicate with the Blue Jays here at the general managers' meetings.

Halladay, 32, has one year, at $15.75 million, remaining on his contract. Toronto shopped Halladay last summer, and the Mets were among the clubs that expressed interest, but the talks didn't progress very far.

Meanwhile, the Mets' contingent met with agent Scott Boras last night to discuss free-agent outfielder Matt Holliday, whom the Mets like but who might prove to be too highly priced for the Mets' budget. Newsday reported on Oct. 18 that Holliday viewed the Yankees as his first choice and the Mets as his second.

Boras also represents free agents Rick Ankiel, Jarrod Washburn and Mets backup infielder Alex Cora.

New Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday of Halladay, "We're just trying to get better. We're trying to get better for the long term . . . We have to be open to talking about any of our players in a trade, if it's going to improve the club.

"There's players that I'm highly reluctant to move, and those ones are pretty obvious. A guy like Roy Halladay, for example, I'd love to have him for part of the franchise for the long term. That being said, he's under contract for one more year."

The Blue Jays still want a high return on Halladay, and they insist that they can pay him for 2010 and simply recoup two draft picks a year from now, when Halladay signs elsewhere as a free agent. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels would appear to be better positioned than the Mets in terms of possessing the trading chips to deal for Halladay.

Yet a similar scenario presented itself two years ago, when the Twins shopped Santana. The Mets were viewed as an extreme underdog in the race. However, the Yankees and Red Sox both decided against trading for Santana, and the Twins - anxious over the prospect of Santana's walk year creating a distraction - felt compelled to trade the lefthander. The Mets got Santana for an underwhelming package of players, none of whom has delivered for the Twins.

Could déjà vu occur? On the surface, it appears unlikely. But the Blue Jays could prefer to deal Halladay out of the American League East, taking the Yankees and Red Sox out of the mix. The Mets have respected lower-level prospects in righthanders Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt, shortstop Wilmer Flores and first baseman Ike Davis, and injury-prone Fernando Martinez is still only 21 years old.

On the Holliday front, meanwhile, Boras also met with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak Tuesday, as St. Louis has a strong interest in retaining Holliday. The Red Sox and Giants are also potential suitors.

As Newsday reported last month, Holliday is intrigued by playing for the Mets, but he is concerned about hitting in spacious Citi Field. Boras played down that concern Tuesday.

"You've got to remember that Matt Holliday, his production is that he's a great hitter," Boras said. "He's not necessarily a home run hitter. He's a hitter. Being a gap hitter, the way he can score runs and drive in runs, Matt's value is based on RBIs and runs scored, and runs produced."

In other Mets news, Minaya said that lefthander Oliver Perez was spending the offseason training at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., and that he would be visited by Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen and trainer Ray Ramirez.

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