Versatile switch hitter Ben Zobrist may have plenty of suitors, but the Mets are making it clear that they will be among the most aggressive.
The club has not established a limit as far as a potential contract length for Zobrist, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. If he requires a four-year deal, the Mets are ready to offer one.
The Mets adopted that stance even before spending all of Wednesday with Zobrist, his wife, and the couple’s newborn daughter. Team officials dined with Zobrist and his family after a day filled with touring the area.
“We only had one day, but we packed a lot into it,” said assistant general manager John Ricco, who was among the Mets officials on a recruiting outing that was meant to serve as an introduction to the organization. “I think he learned a lot about us and we learned a lot about him.”
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said it was important to give Zobrist a larger overview of New York.
“Players from other teams coming into New York, they see New York City, they see the ballpark, they go to and from,” Wilpon said. “We showed them the suburbs, we showed them that there is green grass, and property that you can have.”
The willingness to add a fourth year would be a departure for the Mets under the tenure of general manager Sandy Alderson. But with Zobrist, the willingness to offer more years could be a deciding factor in where he signs.
Though he’s 34, making any long-term deal a risky proposition, the Mets value Zobrist’s disciplined hitting approach and his defensive versatility. He would function primarily as a replacement for Daniel Murphy at second base and could serve as insurance for David Wright at third base.
Zobrist is believed to be seeking a long-term deal with a contender. He has been linked to the Dodgers, Giants, Nationals and others.
Despite the fierce competition for his services, the Mets have been aggressive. According to Ricco, Zobrist left the impression that a decision could come soon, though he reportedly is set to meet with other clubs.
Zobrist hit .284 with seven homers and 23 RBIs after he was traded from the A’s to the Royals, who beat the Mets in the World Series.
Ricco said the Mets have maintained contact with Murphy’s agents. But the focus appears to be squarely on courting Zobrist, though Ricco declined to say if the Mets have made an offer.
Speaking in general terms, Ricco downplayed the idea that the Mets would shy away from offering Zobrist a long-term deal.
“I don’t know that there is hesitancy,” Ricco said. “We’re negotiating. We’re still discussing all that. So I don’t know that hesitancy is the right word.”