Report: Mets encouraged with early Zito talks

The Mets began their pursuit of Barry Zito Tuesday with general manager Omar Minaya leading a contingent of team officials in a face-to-face meeting with the left-hander and his agent Scott Boras in Los Angeles. According to The Star-Ledger, the talks were "productive and encouraging."

The Star-Ledger, citing a person who was briefed on the meeting, reported that, while no offers were made, the Mets left the meeting feeling good about their chances to sign the prized lefty free-agent starter.

Zito and Boras dined with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, Minaya, assistant GM John Ricco and vice president Tony Bernazard.

"I think clubs wanted to talk about their franchises, show the
persona behind the ownership, the direction of the teams," Boras
said Wednesday night.

The Mets took a low-key initial public stance on their
recruitment of the pitcher: Wilpon and Minaya didn't respond to
messages about the meeting.

Also, on Wednesday the Mets met with another free-agent pitcher -- Jeff Suppan.

Suppan, 32 next month, was 12-7 with a 4.12 ERA for St. Louis
this season. He was MVP of the NL Championship Series in helping
the Cardinals beat the Mets and eventually win the World Series title.

According to reports, the Mets would like to land Zito with a contract similar to the five-year, $73 million deal Roy Oswalt received from the Astros. However, after a wild winter of spending by Major League Baseball teams, an offer much larger than that likely will be needed to sign Zito.

The Rangers reportedly have already offered a contract in excess of $100 million, but sources told The Star-Ledger and The New York Times that Texas' offer was nowhere in that ballpark. Multiple sources told The Star-Ledger that the Rangers' offer was five years at a little over $75 million.

The Mets plan to continue discussions with Zito and Boras over the next couple of days, however there likely won't be a resolution in the Zito sweepstakes until January.

According to multiple reports, Zito already has met with the Mariners, Rangers and Giants, as well as the Mets.

A Giants official told Newsday that the team plans to make a serious bid to land Zito.

"Clubs have identified Barry Zito as a No. 1 pitcher and a
difference-maker for their staff,'' Boras said. "It's a very
competitive environment for him, what you would expect."

Zito, like most Boras clients, does not seem to be in a rush to
make his decision. Boras has said he envisions a six- or seven-year
contract for the left-hander, who has made at least 34 starts in
six straight seasons.

Without identifying all the clubs, Boras said five teams have
shown significant interest in Zito at this point.

"We've gotten offers from every team we've dealt with," he
said. "We're past the preliminary meet-and-greet stages."

Meanwhile, a person close to Zito told The New York Post that Zito wouldn't cut it in New York, and a major league scout told the paper that Zito has "slipped" from the elite pitcher he once was considered.

"The last two times I've seen him the last couple years, he wasn't on at all. He struggled getting his breaking ball over for strikes, and when he does that, he's in trouble. He can't get by on a power arm," the scout told The Post.

While the 28-year-old Zito has pitched over 200 innings in six consecutive seasons, he's given up over 200 hits in two of the past three seasons. He also has allowed 27, 26 and 28 home runs the past three seasons with Oakland.

Zito was 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA for the Athletics last season and has a 102-63 record with a 3.55 ERA in seven major league seasons with Oakland. He is 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA in seven postseason starts.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.