Mets' Minaya discusses trade speculation with Benson

DALLAS -- The Mets have been one of the busiest teams in baseball this offseason, and pitcher Kris Benson could be the next New York player on the move.

General manager Omar Minaya called Benson from the winter meetings on Tuesday to discuss the trade speculation that's become a hot topic.

"I'm getting calls on him," Minaya said. "His name is out there. It's a hot name right now."

Minaya said he just wanted to touch base with Benson and let him know what was going on, something he's done with other players mentioned in trade talks -- including left fielder Cliff Floyd. But the GM did not give Benson any assurances that he would not be traded.

"My policy is one that if a team wants to talk about a player, I'm willing to listen," Minaya said.

The Baltimore Orioles are one team the Mets have talked to about Benson, who went 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA in 28 starts for New York last season. Drafted No. 1 overall by Pittsburgh in 1996, he was acquired in a trade with the Pirates in July 2004.

Benson signed a $22.5 million, three-year contract with the Mets before last season. Hampered by injuries throughout his career, the 31-year-old right-hander is 57-61 with a 4.25 ERA in six major-league seasons.

The Mets have added slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado, All-Star closer Billy Wagner, catcher Paul Lo Duca and backup outfielder Tike Redman in the past two weeks. Last month, they traded right fielder Mike Cameron to San Diego for utilityman Xavier Nady.

"They are, to me right now, one of the most complete teams in baseball," San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou said.

Minaya is still looking to stock New York's bench with versatile players and upgrade the bullpen, though it sounds unlikely that free-agent reliever Braden Looper would return in a setup role. Minaya said he has not spoken with Looper's agent lately. The right-hander was 4-7 with a 3.94 ERA and 28 saves in 36 chances as the team's closer last season.

Minaya said he has spoken to the agent for 41-year-old right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who did a nice job as a setup man last season. Hernandez was 8-6 with a 2.58 ERA and four saves in 67 games.

"I think they see the market for relievers being dragged north and they want to attach themselves to that," Minaya said.

Mets officials also had a meeting with the Boston Red Sox on Monday and discussed slugger Manny Ramirez. The Mets are waiting for the Red Sox to get back to them with what it would take to put together a deal for the 2004 World Series MVP, who wants out of Boston.

New York also might like to trade disappointing second baseman Kazuo Matsui and perhaps replace him with a free agent such as Mark Grudzielanek.