Hot Stove: The free agents

Mike Piazza is obviously the biggest name among the 2005 Mets eligible for free agency, but he's hardly the only player faced with a possible exit from Queens.

Piazza is unlikely to return, but the Mets may entertain picking up options or re-signing some of the remaining personnel in the weeks to come. A rundown of eligible Mets:

Marlon Anderson, IF: Anderson filed for free agency on Thursday, the first possible day he could have done so, but that isn't thought to be a message in any way. The 31-year-old utilityman seemed happy in New York and in his reserve role, and will probably test the free agent waters before considering a return to the Mets.

Miguel Cairo, IF: After his production fell off down the stretch, Cairo surprisingly fell from second base favorite to below Kaz Matsui on the team's depth chart. His 2005 campaign (.251, 2 HR, 19 RBI in 327 at-bats) should have been a lot stronger, and Cairo has already filed for free agency.

Mike DiFelice, C: Enjoyed some service time in New York, but spent most of the year at Triple-A and clearly won't be considered as part of a catching tandem for the Mets. The veteran has filed for free agency after appearing in just 11 games for the Mets - his most memorable moment was losing his luggage on the way to Shea Stadium.

Danny Graves, RHP: Graves' tour of duty in New York was a worthy experiment on paper, but flopped badly when put into actual effect (5.75 ERA in 20 games for New York). Graves - who was overused by the Cincinnati Reds in 2003 and 2004, admitting he'd lost significant velocity from his closing heydays - was given a $500,000 buyout to decline a $5 million option for 2006.

Felix Heredia, LHP: Not that Heredia's Mets career - all three games of it - was any great shakes, but any chance of the Mets continuing an association with the lefty probably went out the window when it was announced he'd tested positive for steroids this month. The saving grace might be that last winter's trade of Mike Stanton to the Yankees didn't work out across town, either.

Roberto Hernandez, RHP: Hernandez will be 41 by Opening Day, which leads you to believe his strong season - a 2.58 ERA in 67 appearances, holding batters to a .228 average - might have been more of a last hurrah than an indication of things to come. The Mets might roll the dice and bring Hernandez back if the price is right, however.

Braden Looper, RHP: The Mets do not appear inclined to pick up Looper's option for 2006, nor are they especially high on the idea of declining the option and re-signing Looper at a reduced rate to set up for their closer. Despite pitching the entire season with an arthritic AC joint, Looper doesn't appear to be getting much sympathy from management or fans. He'll likely end his two-year stint as the Mets closer, with the team placing an eye upon free agents Trevor Hoffman, B.J. Ryan and Billy Wagner.

Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B: If the Mets had any ideas about picking up Mientkiewicz's option for 2006, they likely considered it fair warning when the first baseman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the Mets organization "doesn't have a clue" and that if they picked up his option, he "might quit. I'm serious. I don't want to go back there." The Mets will likely look for a backup first baseman to platoon with Mike Jacobs, but it won't be Mientkiewicz.

Jose Offerman, 1B: The Mets are interested in a veteran first baseman who can hit right-handed to platoon with Jacobs, but the answer isn't Offerman, who hit .250 in 53 games with New York after being released by Philadelphia.

Mike Piazza, C: Piazza officially filed for free agency on Friday, and any hope of a return engagement in Queens was likely squashed when the Mets reportedly told Piazza's agent, Dan Lozano, that they saw him only as a part-time player. At age 37, Piazza isn't exactly a platoon player, but it's clear he's much more valuable in the American League. It will be interesting to see which of many expected opportunities Piazza winds up accepting.

Steve Trachsel, RHP: The Mets hold a $2.5 million club option on Trachsel for the 2006 season, one which they'd be well-served to pick up. Despite being treated in confusing fashion following his early return from injury, Trachsel still keeps an open mind toward the Mets organization and - if his option is picked up - becomes the longest-tenured player on the club with Piazza's expected departure. Trachsel will be 35 by Opening Day, but still can be a competent third starter or lower.

Gerald Williams, OF: Williams continues to compile service time, and after re-signing with the Mets to play a season under good friend Willie Randolph, finds himself back on the free agent market. The Mets have a number of options who could capably fill the role of fourth or fifth outfielder, so don't expect them to rush into bidding for the 37-year-old Williams ... though we've been fooled before.

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