Zobrist sees Citi, city during visit with Mets
NEW YORK -- Ben Zobrist's visit to New York City was not the tour-book version. There was a visit to Citi Field, of course, and a chauffeured car back to the airport at the end of the night. But in between, Mets staffers took Zobrist out to the suburbs, trying to show him and his family the everyday life of New Yorkers.
"You're just trying to introduce yourself to someone who doesn't know you," assistant general manager John Ricco said of Wednesday's meeting. "It's about meeting face to face, talking about what our goals and objectives are and what we do here as an organization, from [chief operating officer] Jeff [Wilpon] all the way down. Where we are right now, we feel pretty good about what we have going on and what we have to sell. So from our perspective, these are pretty easy conversations."
Though the Mets would not divulge if they have an offer on the table for Zobrist, they are clearly finalists for one of the game's most coveted free agents. Zobrist appeals to them in large part because of his versatility, which would allow him to play first, second and third base in Flushing, plus both corner outfield spots. His ability to crush left-handed pitching, even at age 34, is also a selling point, as is his plate discipline.
For that reason, Ricco shot down the notion that the Mets might be hesitant to give Zobrist a three- or four-year deal that would take him into his late 30s.
"I don't know that there is hesitancy," Ricco said. "We're negotiating. We're still discussing all of that. I don't know that 'hesitancy' is the right word. We have to do a deal, ultimately, that makes sense for us in the short term and the long term. If there's a fit there, in terms of what we're comfortable with dollars-wise and years-wise for him, we'll get the player."
By the end of next week, there is a good chance that Zobrist -- a Nashville resident who lives minutes from baseball's Winter Meetings site -- will make his decision. The Mets are far from Zobrist's only suitor, and the slugger reportedly has similar on-site meetings scheduled with multiple other teams.
But the Mets, stocked with young pitching and coming off their first World Series berth in 15 years, like their chances.
"We're a very viable place now," special assistant to the GM J.P. Ricciardi said. "We're a very attractive place for people to come and play. I think just stepping back a little bit … people want to hear our story now, and realize that we are a viable place to be and come and play. That puts up an opportunity -- not so much that we can handpick who we want all the time, but it puts us in a spot to identify guys who better fit what we're trying to do."
Among the crew showing Zobrist around the tri-state area were Wilpon and general manager Sandy Alderson, who spent a full day with Zobrist and his family despite battling a treatable form of cancer. The Mets will know soon if their efforts will be enough to land Zobrist, their most coveted roster upgrade of the winter.
"We only had one day, but we packed a lot into it," Ricco said. "I think he learned a lot about us. We learned a lot about him. One of the advantages I think we have with him is he just got to see our team. He got to see what we have and what we think we're going to be over the next few years, which is a pretty good team. He's got a lot of teams interested in him, and rightly so, but we think that meeting went well."