Mets go down to the wire with Hidalgo

NEW YORK – By the end of the day, the Mets will know whether Richard Hidalgo will be a part of their outfield for the 2005 season.

The Mets continue to negotiate with the representatives for the 29-year-old outfielder on the terms of a new contract that would keep Hidalgo in New York.

However, the Mets do not plan to offer Hidalgo salary arbitration by Tuesday's midnight deadline, which would make them unable to negotiate with Hidalgo until May 1 if a deal is not completed.

The outfielder, who hit 21 homers in 86 games for the Mets after coming over in a June trade from the Houston Astros, is capable of playing either left field or right field. That's a benefit the Mets will find useful if they follow through on their plans to deal Cliff Floyd before spring training.

That would vacate left field for Hidalgo, still freeing the Mets to make a run at a premier right fielder like Magglio Ordonez or J.D. Drew, or possibly re-opening a run at trading for Sammy Sosa. Moises Alou is also on the market.

The Mets plan on filling at least one of their offensive vacancies this week, as baseball's winter meetings near on Friday. The team is also in the market for a power-hitting first baseman and has interest in both Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson, although John Olerud – who is unlikely to be offered arbitration by the Yankees – looms as a possible fall-back option.

Mets Notes

Mets GM Omar Minaya is in the Dominican Republic again, this time to meet with SS Jose Reyes and RHP Alay Soler. ... Reports indicate that Minaya will not meet with free agent RHP Pedro Martinez on this trip, although he should receive a counter-offer from Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, in the next few days.

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