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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson spent his first full day at the winter meetings discussing trade options for the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
Alderson said his Monday agenda has been busy with meetings with potential suitors for 20-game winner R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer is under contract for next season at $5 million, but the Mets are serious about trading him this offseason if an extension cannot be reached.
The suitors include the Boston Red Sox, according to a baseball source. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and Alderson met Monday afternoon, with New York looking for outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and shortstop Xander Boegarts in exchange for the Cy Young Award winner, the source said. However, it's unlikely the Red Sox would part with those top prospects.
The Mets met with eight teams Monday about Dickey, the source said.
Alderson insisted he had not resolved to trade Dickey, nor would he say the momentum had moved appreciably in that direction. Still, the GM added, he had not even spoken with Bo McKinnis, Dickey's agent, since arriving in Nashville.
"I don't know whether he's at the hotel," Alderson said. "I haven't met with him. I haven't talked to him."
Only six previous Cy Young winners have opened the following season with another club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Alderson added about the trade talks: "Everything we did today was preliminary. We've met with several clubs on a variety of topics -- not just R.A. We expect to do that the remainder of the afternoon and maybe this evening as well."
He acknowledged also speaking with clubs about left-hander Jonathon Niese.
Alderson said he would be looking for "difference-makers" in return for Dickey -- not low-Class A prospects. He added that the incoming player would not necessarily have to be an outfielder or catcher, the two areas of most glaring need for the club.
"What we've tried to say to ourselves is that we have to get back difference-makers," Alderson said. "It doesn't have to be a catcher. It doesn't have to be an outfielder. It doesn't have to be anything. But it has to be a difference-maker. Because R.A. is a difference-maker."
Alderson insisted that trading a reigning Cy Young winner would not be an indication the Mets are pessimistic about their 2013 chances.
"Are we punting '13? Absolutely not," Alderson said. "This is not about making a trade for four players from the Appalachian League. You have to balance the quality of the player with the potential arrival date of the player, obviously. That's something we're trying to do. But it is important for us if we're going to do something -- and I want to emphasize, we may not -- if we do something, we want whatever comes back to us to have an impact on us as soon as possible."
Alderson said a resolution with Zack Greinke as a free agent definitely could affect how much the Mets could command for Dickey in a trade.
"Any time you're looking at a market, you're looking at options," Alderson said. "The more options there are, the more supply, the lower the demand typically. Working in baseball as it typically does, Greinke will have an impact."
The Mets might give a team a window to negotiate an extension with Dickey.
"Putting aside R.A.'s situation, any time you're providing a window, it complicates things and creates uncertainty," Alderson said. "It's something you'd like to avoid. If you feel you have to grant that, there might be some value to that. It's going to depend from club to club."
Asked if Dickey's popularity and potential fan backlash is a consideration in any potential Dickey deal, Alderson said: "It's a consideration, but in the event we're able to return a difference-maker, I think many of our fans are able to understand the value in that. We recognize the value that R.A. represents to us. But I think our fans understand what we're trying to do, where we're trying to go."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.