Leiter files, negotiations ongoing

Al Leiter filed for provisional free agency on Friday, a step that is considered a security measure in case contract negotiations with the Mets break down. <P> But the odds are that the 39-year-old lefthander will be back with the Mets for the 2005 season, which figures to be his final year as a player. Leiter has already said that he hopes to be back with the club, and the interest appears mutual.

"It's a formality," GM Omar Minaya told reporters. "I spoke to the agent [yesterday]. We're in negotiations and we're still hopeful to have a deal so Al can be back with us next year."

The Mets have a $10 million club option on Leiter for the 2005 season, a trigger which they will buy out at a price of $2 million. It was reported that the deal currently being discussed between the Mets and Leiter's agent, Alan Hendricks, would be for one year and $4 million.

If the Mets don't complete a new contract with Leiter by Nov. 15, he will become a free agent and the Mets will have to compete with other teams for his services. The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reported that if talks with the Mets should break down, the Yankees would have interest.

With Leiter's filing, relief pitcher Mike DeJean is now the only eligible Met who has not filed for free agency.

Zimmer exits the running: Whoever the Mets' next bench coach is, it won't be Don Zimmer.

The 73-year-old baseball staple reportedly told manager Willie Randolph yesterday that he'll be sticking in his current role with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he worked last season as a non-uniform senior advisor.

One of the Mets' final managerial candidates, Terry Collins, is thought to be in the running for Randolph's staff. Newsday reported that John Franco has told the team he'd be interested in joining the coaching staff, but termed that development unlikely.

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