When Zito speaks, Mets will listen

With Daisuke Matsuzaka now in Boston, agent Scott Boras can go about the business of shopping Barry Zito. The Mets will be among the doors he knocks on, and general manager Omar Minaya wants to hear what he has to say.

"We have discussed Barry with Scott," Minaya said. "We will continue to talk to him, and we'll see how it plays out. ... He is one of the guys we are still considering. Barry Zito has been a proven winner."

Minaya said at the winter meetings the Mets have the resources it takes to compete for Zito, but the team doesn't want to go much higher than five years and $75 million, which is what it was willing to give Roy Oswalt last summer.

Texas is the only team to put an offer on the table.

If the Mets aren't able to land Zito or make an addition before spring training, their rotation looks like this: 40-somethings Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez at the front end; John Maine, who showed promise in half a season last summer, at No. 3; question mark lefty Oliver Perez at No. 4; and journeyman lefty Dave Williams, rookie Mike Pelfrey and Alay Soler competing for No. 5.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Manager Willie Randolph and the team continue to talk about an extension. The Mets would like to get something done before the season, but Randolph is prepared in case nothing happens. "I have a year left on my contract," Randolph said. "That's how I'm going to look at it."

  • GM Omar Minaya said the Mets aren't interested in free agent 2B Marcus Giles, who was not tendered by Atlanta. Minaya said Jose Valentin is his second baseman.

  • SportsNet New York (SNY), the Mets' broadcast partner, announced that former Mets OF Lee Mazzilli will work at least 85 games next season as a studio analyst. SNY president Jon Litner cited Mazzilli's playing career with the Mets, his New York background and his coaching and managing experience as the basis for its decision.

  • GM Omar Minaya said the team remains interested in free agent LHP Barry Zito but would be satisfied with the current rotation if it can't make an addition. "(Zito) is a free agent we're looking at. He's a proven winner. That said, we feel our pitching staff, as it is now, it's similar to the second half of last year."

  • LHP Dave Williams was signed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Williams was acquired from Cincinnati in a midseason trade and won three games for the Mets. He could compete for the fifth starter role or work in long relief.

  • RHP Victor Zambrano, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, was not tendered, but the team said it would continue to negotiate with him.

  • OF Endy Chavez, C Ramon Castro, LHP Oliver Perez and RHP Duaner Sanchez were tendered contracts.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Victories by RHP Victor Zambrano with the Mets since he was acquired in a July 2004 trade from Tampa Bay.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'd be more than open to showing Barry (Zito) around and trying to sell him on New York." -- 3B David Wright

    ROSTER REPORT

    The Mets tied for the major league lead with 97 victories and lost the NL Championship Series with the winning run on base in the ninth inning of Game 7, so they are facing more of a fine-tuning than a complete overhaul.

    Already this winter they've re-signed LHP Tom Glavine, RHPs Orlando Hernandez and Guillermo Mota and 2B Jose Valentin; signed free agent LF Moises Alou and INF Damion Easley; and traded for RHP Ambiorix Burgos.

    They are still in the market to obtain another starting pitcher.

    ARRIVALS: RHP Jon Adkins (trade with Padres), OF Ben Johnson (trade with Padres), INF Damion Easley (free agent from Diamondbacks), OF Moises Alou (free agent from Giants), LHP Jason Vargas (trade with Marlins).

    DEPARTURES: RHP Heath Bell (trade with Padres), LHP Royce Ring (trade with Padres), RHP Chad Bradford (free agent, signed with Orioles), RHP Roberto Hernandez (free agent, signed with Indians), LHP Darren Oliver (free agent, signed with Angels; pending physical), INF-OF Chris Woodward (free agent, signed with Braves).

    BIGGEST NEEDS: With two 40-something starters in LHP Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez, and with RHP Pedro Martinez out until the All-Star break following shoulder surgery, the Mets would like to add a hard-throwing starter to the rotation. LHP Oliver Perez and RHP John Maine are earmarked for the back end of the rotation, so ideally, the team would like to plug in a No. 3 starter.

    FREE AGENTS: RHP Steve Trachsel, OF Cliff Floyd, RHP Victor Zambrano (non-tendered). The Mets didn't offer arbitration to any, and none is expected to return.

    ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: C Ramon Castro, OF Endy Chavez, LHP Oliver Perez, RHP Duaner Sanchez. The Mets want to bring back all four. They all were tendered contracts.

    IN LIMBO: RHP Aaron Heilman. Heilman was supposed to be a starter but was put into the bullpen, where he pitched well. He still wants to start, but the Mets are in no hurry to give him that chance. The thing to do might be to trade him while there is value.

    PROSPECT WATCH: The Mets eschewed several opportunities over the last two seasons to trade OF Lastings Milledge but might be less reluctant to deal him this winter now that he has not made the splash expected of him. RHP Mike Pelfrey will have a chance to make the rotation next year out of spring training.


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