The Mets have turned their attention from Sammy Sosa to Manny Ramirez and have been discussing a trade with the Red Sox for the World Series MVP, a person familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.
The talks between the two clubs gained momentum this weekend at the winter meetings. The primary sticking point – as with Sosa – is the financial impact of Ramirez’s massive contract, which pays him $78 million through 2008.
Most of the discussions have centered on Cliff Floyd, whom they wanted to ship to the Cubs for Sosa. But the Red Sox, with their unsettled infield situation, are more interested in Kaz Matsui, who could fill Boston’s void at shortstop.
The Red Sox also crave payroll flexibility, and trading Ramirez would free up money to more aggressively court Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and Edgar Renteria – with the cost-efficient plan of signing Moises Alou to replace Ramirez in leftfield.
“I don’t think anyone is untouchable,” a Red Sox official said. “I don’t think we came here with the intent of trading Manny. But we wanted to a year ago, and his value is higher now.”
Mets general manager Omar Minaya said yesterday that he does not intend to trade Matsui, but his name popped up repeatedly this weekend and it might be too tempting to resist if the Japanese infielder remains the only obstacle to the deal. Minaya couched his statement by saying, “He’ll probably be our second baseman this year.”
The only reason Matsui is even playing there is because the Mets concluded they made a mistake in moving Jose Reyes from shortstop to second base a year ago. The Red Sox, however, believe that Matsui’s defensive problems were largely attributable to Mike Piazza’s shortcomings at first base.
The Mets would prefer to use Floyd as the bargaining chip, but the $13.2 million coming to him over the next two seasons is only the jumping-off point. A baseball official said the Red Sox have no interest in taking Piazza, who will earn $15 million in the final year of his contract. As a result, the Mets would likely seek close to $20 million from Boston to soften the payroll hit.