NEW YORK -- Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and the New York Mets showed Ben Zobrist there are suburban living options near New York City when the free-agent utility player took a full-day recruiting trip to the Big Apple on Wednesday as part of a tour of potential suitors.
Assistant general manager John Ricco confirmed afterward that the Mets are “very interested” in signing Zobrist.
Zobrist, 34, visited the Mets along with his wife and infant daughter.
“Players from other teams come into New York. They see New York City. They see the ballpark,” Wilpon said. “We showed him the suburbs. We showed him that there is green grass and property that you can have. The guy is coming from a fairly different kind of lifestyle than New York City proper. There’s other places. We have Westchester and Connecticut that he can go to. So him seeing that, and his wife being able to see that, I thought was important for him.”
General manager Sandy Alderson, despite a recent cancer diagnosis, participated in the recruiting for the entire day. Alderson, Ricco and Wilpon individually met with Zobrist.
“We only had one day, but we packed a lot into it,” Ricco said. “I think he learned a lot about us. We learned a lot about him. Sandy was part of that from beginning to end. We dropped him off at the airport after a nice dinner at 9 o’clock at night. So it was a full day. I think he got to see what we all believe. One of the advantages I think we have with him is he just got to see our team. He faced us … in October and got to see what we have and what we think we’re going to be over the next few years, which is a good team.”
Zobrist hit .261 (6-for-23) with four doubles and three walks and scored five runs in five games in the World Series for the Kansas City Royals against the Mets.
“I think you got to see in the World Series what type of player he is,” Ricco said. “Versatility is a big selling point for us. So that’s another thing that’s attractive.”
Ricco said he did not expect an imminent decision from Zobrist, but added that it seemed like the player had narrowed his focus of teams and should have a decision sooner than later. The Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly are among the other suitors.
“You’re just trying to introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you,” Ricco added about the visit. “It’s about just meeting face to face, talking about what our goals and objectives are, and what we do here as an organization from Jeff all the way down, and showing him we have a lot of good people -- support staff. You assume he knows nothing about your organization, and you just try to have him leave with a pretty good idea what we have going on and what we have to sell. From our perspective, it was a pretty easy conversation.”
The Mets are keeping tabs on free agent Daniel Murphy in case Zobrist opts to sign elsewhere. Otherwise, the club continues to sound prepared to turn over second base, at least on a shared basis, to prospect Dilson Herrera. Ricco added that the Mets are not being delayed on other offseason pursuits as they wait for Zobrist’s decision because the position-player market has been slow to develop.
“We’re staying in contact with Daniel’s guys,” Ricco said.
On Herrera, Ricco said: “We like Herrera. We think he’s pretty much done everything he’s needed to do in Triple-A. Could he go back and have a little bit more seasoning? Yeah, he definitely could. But we also think he could come up right now. He’s had a couple of tastes of it. He could come up and, I think, compete right away. We’re looking at a couple of different options. One would be to pair [Herrera] with someone else. It could be to get a full-time guy like a Murph. But we’re kind of taking it one step at a time.”
Team officials privately have been highly skeptical the Mets would go to four years to land Zobrist. Still, Ricco said about an offer of three years or more: “I don’t know that there is hesitancy. We’re negotiating. We’re still discussing all of that. I don’t know that 'hesitancy' is the right word. We have to do a deal ultimately that makes sense for us in the short term and the long term. If there’s a fit there in terms of what we’re comfortable with dollars-wise and years-wise for him, we’ll ultimately get the player. It’s like any other one of these things. We’re trying to fit together the pieces of the puzzle.”