Mets pick up Alou's option, re-sign Easley

NEW YORK -- Moises Alou is staying with the New York Mets,
and Damion Easley will return next season, too.

The Mets exercised their $7.5 million option on Alou's contract
Wednesday, bringing back the 41-year-old left fielder who was
limited to 87 games this season because of a quadriceps injury.

New York also re-signed Easley to a $950,000, one-year deal. The
backup infielder and outfielder provided a boost off the bench in
2007 before a badly sprained left ankle ended his season on Aug.

When Alou was in the lineup, he produced. He batted .341 with 13
home runs, 49 RBIs and only 30 strikeouts in 328 at-bats during his
first year with the Mets, who collapsed down the stretch and missed
the playoffs.

Alou said he and his teammates have "unfinished business" to
take care of next season.

"What happened this year to us -- I really wanted to have
another shot, another chance at winning a world championship,"
Alou said on a conference call from the Dominican Republic.

While the team was sliding in September, Alou kept hitting. He
put together a 30-game hitting streak that ended on Sept. 27, the
longest in the major leagues this year and the best run by a player
on a New York team (including Brooklyn) since Joe DiMaggio's record
streak of 56 games in 1941 with the Yankees.

Still, the Mets lost 12 of their final 17 games and squandered a
big cushion in the NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies rallied to
win the division title on the last day of the regular season.

New York became the first major league team to fail to finish in
first place after owning a lead of seven games or more with 17
remaining. The Mets, who had that margin on Sept. 12, also matched
the largest lead blown in September.

"I really haven't gotten over [it] yet," said Alou, a six-time
All-Star. "It's been a little easier the last couple of days
because the World Series is over."

The Mets picked up Alou's option rather than pay him a $1
million buyout. General manager Omar Minaya said it would have been
difficult to replace Alou's production at a reasonable cost.

"To be able to have this for one year at the dollars that we're
talking about," Minaya said, "I don't want to use a no-brainer,
but we felt it was a wise decision."

Alou said he already started working out -- earlier than usual --
to get ready for next season. He wants to arrive at spring training
in the best shape of his life and avoid the injuries that have
hampered him throughout his 16-year career.

"I'm going to do everything that I can do to stay healthy," he
said, specifically mentioning drinking the proper fluids and eating
bananas. "I'm going to work as hard as I've ever worked to make
sure that I can play 140 games or something like that."

Easley, who turns 38 on Nov. 11, filed for free agency this week
but quickly rejoined the Mets. He batted .280 with 10 homers and 26
RBIs in 193 at-bats this season, his first in New York. He is
expected to be healthy for spring training 2008.

"He can play different positions," Minaya said. "He's a power
bat off the bench."

Mostly because of injuries to other players, Easley started 36
games at second base. He also made five starts in right field,
three in left and two at first base.

"One of the better bench players in the game," Minaya added.

The Mets need to fill starting jobs at second base and catcher
this offseason. Paul Lo Duca, the team's No. 1 catcher the past two
seasons, filed for free agency. So did second baseman
Luis Castillo, hobbled by a sore knee after he was acquired from
Minnesota in late July.

Minaya said he's been in contact with Lo Duca's agent.

"We have good interest in Paul Lo Duca," the GM said. "We do
have interest in having dialogue with Luis Castillo."

If necessary, Minaya said he would be comfortable with
youngsters Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez, plus Endy Chavez,
filling the right-field job. Shawn Green, the team's primary right
fielder this season, is a free agent.

Minaya also said he planned to speak with David Wright soon
about speculation that the Mets might be interested in signing
free-agent third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Wright had said he would like to meet with Mets management to
gauge whether the team might want him to consider switching
positions. Minaya said he recently talked to Wright's
representatives about it.

"I will tell you that we are very happy with David Wright as
our third baseman," Minaya said. "That is a position that we are
very, very pleased with."

Minaya also said the Mets were waiting to hear whether
41-year-old pitcher Tom Glavine wants to return next season.

"Pretty much the same pattern as last year," Minaya said.

Glavine declined his $13 million option with the Mets on Oct. 5,
taking a $3 million buyout in addition to his $7.5 million salary
this year. He filed for free agency Wednesday.