Could Manny be next for Mets?

NEW YORK – Sure, the Mets are pumped about the prospect of Pedro Martinez staring down big league hitters every fifth day, and would be thrilled if Martinez is able to bring home 16 to 20 wins in the process. <P> But the appeal of Martinez has gone beyond balls and strikes for the Mets. In one day, the 33-year-old righthander not only made the Mets a presence again in New York, it has also made them a force in the free-agent marketplace.

GM Omar Minaya said Thursday that no fewer than two major league star players contacted the organization in the wake of the planned Martinez announcement, with one of the players believed to be under contract with another club.

"We got a guy … who transcends wins and losses," Minaya said. "He transcends that for us. We are trying to build a championship team here and, for me, it was not only about free agents but about bringing players from within the system. We today made a statement in the marketplace."

So who's next for the Mets? Martinez said on Thursday that "without a doubt" he would be willing to help recruit free agents, though he may already have inadvertently shifted the thinking of one player under contract. Rumor has it that the one of the players who called Minaya unsolicited was Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox, a Washington Heights native and a good friend of Pedro's.

If the Mets can swing a trade for the World Series MVP Ramirez – a deal that would have included Ramirez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Cliff Floyd and Kazuo Matsui made the rounds last week at the Winter Meetings – this could be their best opportunity, with World Champion Sox leaving town left and right.

Who knows, maybe the Mets could even pull off a deal that nets them Yankee-killer David Ortiz, although most signs point to the club targeting free agent Carlos Delgado to fill their first base void.

"David Ortiz is really upset, especially knowing now that Manny's on the trade block," Martinez said Thursday. "We were very close together, all three of us."

The very fact that we're even entertaining the idea of the Mets making runs at players like Ramirez, Ortiz, Delgado and – as Newsday reported Friday, Carlos Beltran – is indicative of just how much Martinez's signing has already shifted culture at Shea.

No longer do the Mets appear doomed to pluck players from the bargain bin; under Minaya's watch, Mets fans must begin to expect the unexpected. It was, after all, just a week ago Wednesday that Martinez was poised to sign his name to a three-year, $40 million deal with the Red Sox, and that Ortiz told reporters that "Pedro ain't goin' to no Mets."

What the Mets do from here on out will show if that fresh air felt around Shea on Thursday – excitement about the Mets, imagine that! – was just a passing breeze or a presence that is here to stay.

Delgado would be a nice start to that, although rumor has it that the Blue Jays slugger is dismayed that he won't be able to pull in the huge dollars he's grown used to with Toronto (Delgado has averaged $19.2 million over the last three years). A Mets offer would likely be more in the range of the four-year, $50 million pact that the Seattle Mariners just agreed to with Richie Sexson.

The Mets are also negotiating with Martinez's agent, Fern Cuza, on possibly bringing Moises Alou to Shea.

Alou would fill one of the Mets' corner outfield spots – probably left field, as Floyd is expected to be moved by Opening Day – and is coming off a 39-homer year for the Chicago Cubs.

His numbers away from Wrigley Field are a concern, however: Alou hit just .244 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 300 at-bats on the road, quite the departure from his .339 average and 29 homers in Chicago.

Contact Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch at metsinsidepitch@aol.com.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories