From the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden.

Yankee GM Brian Cashman had always intended to pick up Sheffield’s $13 million option for next year – but not for the purposes of keeping him. Once the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu from the Phillies at last July’s trading deadline, it was clear Sheffield no longer fit in their plans, but by picking up his option, they can now get something for him. And it could be a nice return as at least a half-dozen teams – the Angels, Orioles, Cubs, Giants, Astros and Rangers – are in the market for a power-hitting corner outfielder, and that doesn’t include the Red Sox and Mets. The Yankees can now prevent Sheffield going to such rivals, not a possibility had they let him flee.

What makes Sheffield especially attractive is that much of his $13 million salary for next year is deferred, making him a much cheaper alternative to the only two premier corner outfielders on the free agent market, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee.

Sheff, Soriano and Lee all come up in Tim Marchman’s Wednesday entry for the New York Sun, in which the columnist insists the Mets’ 2006 hitting ” wasn’t notably better than that of a half-dozen other National League offenses,” and suggests that despite the gaudy numbers generated by Reyes, Beltran, Delgado and Wright, the Amazin’s need another Big Stick.

Sportswriters are forever advocating big, ridiculous trades and free agent signings, but this is a case where the Mets probably really have to make one. They could really use a true, star-caliber hitter in one of the outfield corners or at second base to buy themselves a bit of a hedge against some bad starting pitching or a sudden decline from someone like Delgado. The problem is that the best options on the free agent market ” Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Gary Sheffield ” are all bad ideas in one or another way. You don’t want to make huge commitments to veterans in their early 30s coming off career years, and Sheffield is old and dealing with wrist problems.

Were I in charge, I’d be shopping Milledge (who, leaving aside clubhouse issues, has very little chance of developing into anything more than a useful player if he’s not in center field) and one of the team’s spare right-handed relievers for a real bat, and I expect that’s what Omar Minaya will do. Do the Mets absolutely need another big stick? Perhaps not; but if you have real confidence in Valentin and Lo Duca, elderly men in baseball years, being assets at two skill positions next year, you’re a more optimistic man than I.