There have been a number of conflicting published reports overnight about the New York Mets’ remaining role, if any, in negotiations to sign free agent 1B Carlos Delgado. Newsday’s David Lennon writes the club gave Delgado a deadline of late last night to inform them of his intent, and when the player’s agent, David Sloane, bristled at such an ultimatium, the Mets were no longer contenders. The New York Post’s Michael Morrisey has the Mets claiming they’re still in the running , and Jack Curry’s report in this morning’s New York Times says much the same.

However, you can put the Daily News’ Peter Botte and John Harper squarely in the camp of those claiming Delgado will not be a Met, with the following details revealed :

From front-runners to out of the running in a matter of hours, the Mets’ involvement in the Carlos Delgado bidding came to a screeching halt late last night when Delgado and agent David Sloane abruptly eliminated them from the competition without notice because they, like the Rangers, were pressing the free-agent slugger to make his decision.

The Rangers bowed out of contention for Delgado earlier in the night, and the surprise revelations left the Florida Marlins as his likely landing spot in a four-year deal that could be announced as early as today, with Baltimore still barely alive in the talks.

One baseball official had proclaimed the Mets as “the favorites in a two-horse race (with the Marlins)” after confirming early last night that the Mets had guaranteed a fourth year to Delgado yesterday in a package that rivaled Texas’ recent $48 million bid – believed to be worth nearly $50 million. But shortly after Sloane and Texas owner Tom Hicks separately announced that the Rangers had dropped out after their self-imposed weekend deadline had passed without a deal, Sloane told ESPN that the Mets no longer were under consideration for Delgado’s services.

A team source said after midnight that Mets’ officials were “shocked and livid” to learn of their elimination through the media.

“Jeff (Wilpon) and I spoke to Mr. Sloane tonight and expressed our desire to get a resolution by tonight,” Mets GM Omar Minaya said in a statement issued at 12:30 a.m. “He said he would convey our thought to Carlos and get back to us after speaking to him. We have yet to receive that phone call.

“He has not yet told us we’re out of it.”

A Mets official insisted the team never had issued Delgado any ultimatums to accept or decline its latest offer, but acknowledged that the Mets “wanted to know where (they) stood” so they could proceed with their pursuit of a backup plan.

Still, Sloane clearly had problems with the teams dictating the pace of negotiations throughout the process, with one source familiar with the talks saying that part of Sloane’s angry reaction to the Mets’ demands for an answer was to tell them that “no one corners me.” The source also contended there was “friction” between Sloane and Wilpon over the last several days, with Wilpon telling the agent he wanted the situation resolved by last night because the Mets didn’t want the negotiations to drag into the week and “take away” from the Mets’ fan “Caravan” tour of New York that kicks off tomorrow.

Hicks had been the first to step up with a four-year offer (worth $48 million, with some of the money deferred) to Delgado in meetings Friday in Puerto Rico. Hicks called the proposal “our best offer” and tendered it with the proviso that Delgado would have to accept or reject the deal by the end of the weekend in a vain attempt to prevent Sloane from shopping those figures to the other bidders. Delgado ultimately balked at committing to Texas because the Rangers, despite an offer from first baseman Mark Teixeira to shift to left field, told Delgado they planned to use him primarily as their designated hitter.

“From the first conversation with the Texas Rangers, we made it crystal-clear that Carlos Delgado had no interest in being a full-time DH,” Sloane told The Associated Press last night. “If we had 25 conversations with the Texas Rangers, we were told in 24 of those that the question of him playing first base was no issue. (Yesterday), we were told that is changing and that 75% of his at-bats . . . would come as a DH.

“After three months of negotiations, we were given less than five hours to tell them yes or no, to make a decision that affects not only the rest of Carlos Delgado’s baseball career but the rest of his life.”

Defensively, the Mets could do far worse than to sign John Olerud or trade for Doug Mientkiewicz. The sort of offensive production provided by a healhy Delgado, however, isn’t available elsewhere in this year’s free agent market (OF Magglio Ordonez’ condition being questionable) and it would not be unexpected (sadly) for Omar Minaya to again turn his attention to Sammy Sosa following this rejection.