Benson, Leiter close to re-signing

Kris Benson and the Mets are all but certain to remain close companions, and signs are that Al Leiter could soon join him.

The Mets appear close to announcing a new deal with Benson, which has been reported to weigh in around $23 million for three years. Benson's agent, Gregg Clifton, and the team worked deep into Friday's overnight with the intention of completing a contract sooner rather than later.

If and when Benson signs, it will represent the completion of one of the Mets' top priorities for this winter.

Benson was just 4-4 after coming to New York from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 30, but the package the Mets gave up for the right-hander – infielder Ty Wigginton, pitcher Matt Peterson and infielder Jose Bautista (who came in a trade with the Kansas City Royals for catcher Justin Huber) – made it imperative that the club retain Benson's services for 2005 and beyond, especially with then-GM Jim Duquette's disclosure that the trade was made for the future and not necessarily to chase the Mets' fading pennant race hopes in 2004.

Things have been moving a little slower with Leiter, who has been locked in a stalemate with the Mets since before he announced his free agency. The Mets have been unwilling to budge from their general offer of one year at $4 million for the 39-year-old veteran: while the length of the contract is fine for Leiter, who plans to retire after the 2005 season, he believes that he can earn more in today's market.

The Mets and Leiter still have time to find middle ground, but if Leiter plans to test the open waters, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies will almost certainly emerge as players for his services.

Guillen dealt to Washington

For the second straight offseason, the Mets flirted with the idea of acquiring outfielder Jose Guillen, but watched him go elsewhere in the end.

The Mets had been entertaining the idea of bringing back Guillen in a possible trade with the Anaheim Angels for Mike Piazza, but that evaporated Friday night when the Angels secured a younger, cheaper package for Guillen

Anaheim received outfielder Juan Rivera and infield prospect Maicer Izturis from the soon-to-be-named Washington Nationals.

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