Mets offer deals to catchers Molina, Hernandez

NEW YORK -- Now that they have Carlos Delgado, the New York
Mets are turning their attention to Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez.

General manager Omar Minaya said Friday the team had made offers
to the pair of free-agent catchers. He also refused to rule out
trying to acquire Manny Ramirez from Boston, although he wouldn't
go into specifics.

"We will have conversations sometime this week, hopefully not
this weekend," Minaya said during a telephone conference call.
"It's been two Thanksgivings now that I've been working every

With Mike Piazza leaving, the Mets have made it a priority to
get a catcher, especially one with better defensive skills. Going
after both Molina and Hernandez is somewhat unusual.

"I was honest. I let them know I have two offers out there.
They're both very good catchers," Minaya said. "We might possibly
go the trade route, also."

Alan Nero, Molina's agent, said no decision was imminent.

"We got an initial offer from them. Because of the holidays, we
haven't had a chance to go over it," he said. "It's an initial
offer. We're expecting offers from several other teams, and we have
lot of work to do."

Last year, Minaya had Thanksgiving dinner with Pedro Martinez.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner signed with the Mets, a move
that helped New York persuade center fielder Carlos Beltran to join
them a few weeks later.

Delgado, the other major free agent Minaya went after, spurned
New York to sign with the Florida Marlins. But with Florida
slashing payroll, the Marlins sent the first baseman to the Mets on
Thursday for first baseman Mike Jacobs, right-hander Yusmeiro Petit
and infielder Grant Psomas. The Marlins will give the Mets $7
million to offset part of the $48 million Delgado is owed over the
next three years: $1 million next season, $2 million in 2007 and $4
million in 2008.

Minaya wanted to get the deal done before a decision was made by
Paul Konerko, the top power hitter on the free-agent market. He
figured teams that failed to land Konerko might get involved in
talks to acquire Delgado.

"Any time a cleanup hitter, a guy that hits 30 to 40 home runs
and 125 RBI [is] out there in the marketplace, you better not be
too slow," Minaya said.

New York hopes Delgado, David Wright, Cliff Floyd and Beltran
will combine to provide a consistent offense threat.

"When you look at championship teams, they usually have a
presence," Minaya said.

Minaya, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and team chief operating officer
Jeff Wilpon, spoke with Delgado, who is scheduled to be at Shea
Stadium for a news conference Monday. Last March, Delgado told the
Toronto Star that he didn't like the way Minaya and assistant Tony
Bernazard focused on his Hispanic heritage when trying to recruit

Minaya said reports of friction between Delgado and Bernazard
were overblown.

"Tony and Carlos have spoken," Minaya said. "Tony and Carlos
go way back."

In another potentially touchy subject, Delgado protested the
U.S.-Iraq war by refusing to stand when "God Bless America" was
played at major league ballparks. Balancing Delgado's free-speech
rights and the patriotism expected from players by some fans in New
York could be a delicate balancing act.

"I don't have an answer to that question right now," Minaya
said. "At some point in time, we will sit down with Carlos and
talk about those issues."

The 33-year-old Delgado, a two-time All-Star, hit .301 with
33 homers and 115 RBI in his lone season with the Marlins,
reaching 30 homers for the ninth consecutive year. His defense,
however, is shaky.

"The bottom line is his offensive production," Minaya said.
"We've seen him play. He holds his own over there."