With Twins-Red Sox talks stalling, Mets set to step in

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The New York Mets still want a shot at
Johan Santana.

With the winter meetings nearly over, the Minnesota Twins' ace
remained on the market Wednesday night and the Mets hoped to get
seriously involved in trade talks.

The Twins have been weighing offers for the two-time Cy Young
Award winner, who can become a free agent after next season. The
Mets, who insist they won't deal speedy shortstop Jose Reyes, were
not considered major contenders -- but the Yankees said Tuesday they
had stopped pursuing Santana, and Minnesota's negotiations with
Boston seemed to have stalled.

That left the Mets with a potential opening, even if it was a
small one.

"We have some pretty good prospects," general manager Omar
Minaya said. "We have the players."

New York could offer a package that includes some combination of
young pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey along
with outfield prospects Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.

Any team that strikes a deal for Santana probably would want a
72-hour window to try and sign the 28-year-old left-hander to a
long-term contract.

"Everyone knows who is out there," Mets manager Willie
Randolph said. "The big fish are out there. Santana is still out
there. I don't think that we're necessarily out of the picture even
though I think Boston and the Yankees get most of the play on that.
Depends on what Minnesota wants, if they have what we like, that's
something that might happen."

The Mets also are interested in Baltimore lefty Erik Bedard as
well as Oakland's Dan Haren and Joe Blanton, who could come cheaper
than Santana.

"Since 24 hours ago we've had some positive dialogue," Minaya
said. "I think we're still in play with some of these guys."

But it sounds as though other teams are waiting for Santana to
get moved before determining whether to make their own starters
available -- and at what price.

"We're all in the same boat," Randolph said. "There are a
second tier of guys who are probably sitting back waiting. So yeah,
I guess, obviously when Santana goes, wherever he goes, hopefully
to us, then everything else will fall into place."

The Twins maintain they don't necessarily have to trade Santana.
New general manager Bill Smith has said his first choice is to sign
the pitcher to a contract extension, though it would probably be
difficult for Minnesota to meet Santana's asking price.

"We have to get back people that are going to help us win in
the major leagues. Everybody thinks we're just launching people.
That's not the case, or Santana would have been traded," Twins
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've had good offers from people on
Santana, but it has to be a package that we're comfortable with."

There was some speculation Wednesday that the Mets also could
try to acquire a proven starter in a three-way trade.

"There are times that multiple teams works," Minaya said.
"We've had those conversations."

But the GM said he won't be disappointed if the Mets don't make
a move at the winter meetings, which end Thursday.

"We like our starting rotation. Would we like to improve that?
Yes. Would we like to get a guy that's an innings eater or a guy
that's a front-of-the-rotation guy? Yes. If we don't, are we a good
team? I think we're a good team," Minaya said.

"I don't like to create a false hope," he added. "I don't
want our fan base to think if we don't do something in these
meetings -- I don't want to disappoint. I want to talk about where
we are as a team, and we're probably going to accomplish things
after we get out of here."

After the Marlins traded LHP Dontrelle Willis and slugger
Miguel Cabrera to Detroit in an eight-player deal, Minaya said
Willis was not made available to the Mets -- probably because
they're in the same division as Florida.