The Mets have made it abundantly clear that free agent super-utility player Ben Zobrist is their top free agent target this winter.
Zobrist met with the Mets last Wednesday and took a tour of Citi Field as well as suburban neighborhoods around the metropolitan area.
And assistant GM John Ricco said the Mets intend to meet with Zobrist’s agents again during the Winter Meetings in Nashville this week.
“We’ve had conversations with his guys, and we’ll definitely be meeting with them,” he explained.
Ricco made it clear about how the Mets feel about Zobrist and what he could bring to the Mets if he were to sign with them.
“We’ve met with Ben. It’s pretty obvious we think he’s a fit,” Ricco said on Sunday.
Ricco said Zobrist could decide on his new team by the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.
“Could it get done by the end of these meetings? I think yes,” Ricco said. “That’s really in his hands, and I don’t want to speak for him. We think it might happen here.”
Currently, the Mets, Nationals, Dodgers and Giants all appear to be in the hunt for Zobrist, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, with the Royals appearing to be priced out, the Braves and Angels on the fringes, and the Cubs and Cardinals not being able to guarantee as many at-bats for the super-utility free agent.
The demand for Zobrist has escalated, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports says Zobrist can already command a four-year deal which could go north of $60 million, and Rosenthal says a team guaranteeing the fourth year could be the deciding factor for him.
Previously, the Mets hadn’t seemed inclined to give Zobrist a four-year deal, according to multiple reports. But Marc Carig of Newsday said last week the Mets are indeed willing to offer a fourth year if that’s what it takes to get a deal done.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirmed the Mets would be willing to offer Zobrist a fourth guaranteed year, but warned other teams are also willing to offer the 34-year-old a four-year deal as well.
There’s the issue of Zobrist’s age, and the risk associated with guaranteeing four years to a player entering his age-35 season, which is presumably why the Mets were originally reluctant to give Zobrist a four-year deal.
But if the Mets intend to win right now, it may be a risk the Mets have to take with Zobrist, and deal with the consequences of the long side of such a contract.
He is not tied to draft compensation, as he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being dealt to the Royals by the A’s mid-year.
Zobrist hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 126 games with the A’s and Royals in 2015. He underwent April knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.