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Thursday, December 6, 2012
Amazin' issues still loom large

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- During Sandy Alderson's first winter meetings as New York Mets general manager in 2010, he signed D.J. Carrasco and Ronny Paulino and selected Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato in the Rule 5 draft. Last year, he orchestrated the ill-fated trade of Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez and quipped about chocolate as Jose Reyes defected to the Miami Marlins.

So, grading on a curve, perhaps a winter meetings limited to David Wright offering a healthy endorsement of the future and modeling the team's new blue jerseys (on sale now) can be viewed as a success.

R.A. Dickey
R.A. Dickey, who lives 15 minutes away, twice stopped by the winter meetings venue.

In reality, as the winter meetings concluded Thursday morning at the Gaylord Opryland Resort with the Rule 5 draft, the Mets still have no firm resolution on any of the major issues present when team officials arrived Sunday.

 • R.A. Dickey remains a Met, but he's signed only through next season.

 •  The current starting outfield remains Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter.

 • The players under control as the righty-hitting catching partners for Josh Thole remain waiver-claim Anthony Recker and Mike Nickeas.

 • The lone credible setup man to closer Frank Francisco remains Bobby Parnell.

"We're happy with the progress we've made," Alderson said. "It's always nice to see something tangible at the end of the meetings. We feel that we've made solid progress on a number of different fronts. So we'll go back to New York and continue to pursue certain things and go from here."

Dickey, who lives 15 minutes from the winter meetings site, twice stopped by the hotel. And his agent, Bo McKinnis, met at least twice with Alderson -- including once in the parking lot. Several insiders, while offering no guarantee, predict Dickey ultimately will remain in a Mets rotation that stays intact -- with Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. (Alderson said trade talks involving Niese had been minimal.)

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon now has twice in recent weeks said the Mets are prepared to bring Dickey back next season while under control only for 2013 at $5 million if an extension cannot be reached.

"That's possible," Alderson said. "I don't necessarily think it's the optimum result, but it's a possible result. And if that's the one that ultimately transpires, then we'll be happy with that."

It's just as plausible, however, that Dickey ultimately agrees with the Mets for two additional years in the $22 million to $28 million range.

As Mets insiders projected in the week leading up to the winter meetings, what could prompt the Mets to deal Dickey is a team that misses out in the Zack Greinke bidding getting overly aggressive in a trade proposal. The Los Angeles Dodgers may fit that profile.

The Dodgers still want to add two front-end rotation arms -- preferably hard throwers. If Greinke signs with Texas, Los Angeles' top two choices appear to be Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin and free-agent Anibal Sanchez. The 30-day period to negotiate a deal with agent Scott Boras over Ryu expires Sunday. If that contract, or one with Sanchez, fails to materialize, the Dodgers likely would go the trade route. And that puts Dickey in play.

As for a righty-hitting catcher, the free-agent route is slim pickings. The Mets never were going to touch the price tag on Mike Napoli (three years, $39 million with Boston) or Russell Martin (two years, $17 million with Pittsburgh). They do not want to revisit anyone formerly with the organization if at all possible, which eliminates Kelly Shoppach, Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco and former farmhand Jesus Flores. They are leery of Chris Snyder's back. And they don't think Matt Treanor is an upgrade over Nickeas. So that leaves Miguel Olivo as the top free-agent option.

Alderson specifically said Thursday morning that Recker, a waiver claim from the Cubs, "maybe" could end up the backup catcher to Thole. The GM added that the trade route does not appear fruitful.

"If we do anything at that position, we'll go where the best player is," Alderson said. "We've explored the trade market. That doesn't look all that promising at the moment. But the free-agent market is also thin."

In the outfield, Angel Pagan (four years, $40 million) and Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million with Boston) fell outside the Mets' appetite for spending -- and, arguably, sanity. And while not official, Ryan Ludwick appears headed back to Cincinnati.

The Mets still would like to re-sign Scott Hairston but appear wary of a two-year commitment. Hairston nonetheless has expressed confidence a deal to return may materialize, although the Yankees are among the other suitors.

"We're still talking with his agent and expect that we'll talk with him again," Alderson said. "But I wouldn't read anything into that."

Otherwise, the righty-hitting outfield options on the free-agent market start to get really slim: Cody Ross as well as Jeff Baker, Matt Diaz, Reed Johnson and Austin Kearns.

"I think one thing that will happen leaving these meetings is that clubs will sort of reassess the market and draw some conclusions about whether it's going to continue to be hot, whether it's going to soften," Alderson said. "But I think most clubs will go back to their organizations and try to determine that and then move forward, which is what we'll do."