NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Wary of attracting unwanted attention, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson held a clandestine meeting Monday evening with Bo McKinnis, the agent for R.A. Dickey. In a parking lot outside the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, amidst a sea of valet attendants and exhaust fumes, the two discussed a contract extension.
They also discussed the possibility of a trade.
"As time has progressed," McKinnis said of his client, "I think he is getting more to a peace with it."
More and more, the Mets appear willing to become the seventh team in Major League history to trade a reigning Cy Young Award winner before the following year's Opening Day. The greatest obstacle -- perhaps the only obstacle at this point -- is finding a deal that makes sense. As Alderson reiterated to McKinnis during their parking lot rendezvous, he will not deal Dickey, who is under team control for one more year, without receiving an impact player in return.
So the Mets continue to talk trade with more than a half-dozen teams here at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, while ostensibly also negotiating an extension with Dickey. In some of his first public comments of the offseason, McKinnis said he and the Mets are both flexible on contract length, as well as on details such as a no-trade clause. But a monetary gap remains.
Asked if that gap might be impassable, Alderson replied: "I think that remains to be seen."
For Alderson, the focus continues to be almost exclusively on Dickey. Though the Mets have touched base with various agents, including the representatives for outfielder Scott Hairston, they have had "virtually no discussions" about trading starting pitcher Jon Niese. It appears that if the Mets disrupt their rotation with a trade, Dickey will be the one wearing a new uniform come spring.
McKinnis reflected Dickey's own recent comments in noting his client would be amenable to a trade, going as far as to say Dickey's "eyes light up" at the thought of potentially ending his career where it started, in Texas. The Rangers, along with the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Red Sox and Royals, are among the teams weighing a deal.
To be clear, McKinnis did stress that the knuckleballer's top preference is still to remain in Flushing, where he vaulted from baseball's scrap heap to its upper crust. But he spoke also of an evolving outlook.
"For me to say that [the Mets] are in an awkward spot, not knowing whether to sign him or trade him, I guess we're similarly mixed," McKinnis said. "R.A. really does want to be with the Mets, but he doesn't want to be here if being here is not the best thing for the club. If it would open more opportunities for them, we'd accept that trade."
Not that Dickey and McKinnis have a choice. Lacking a no-trade clause in his current contract, Dickey must accept any deal to which the Mets agree. So it helps his cause that non-contending teams rarely take interest in 38-year-old pitchers; of the eight teams reportedly linked to Dickey in recent days, seven have at least reasonable postseason expectations.
On the trade front, it's simply a matter of finding the right package. The Mets would love to acquire a power-hitting outfielder who is Major League ready or close to it. A catcher is another priority.
Such deals may be coming. McKinnis and Alderson both speculated that once top free-agent starting pitcher Zack Greinke finds a new home, the market for Dickey could shift. So if Dickey's first choice is indeed a return to the Mets, it would make sense for he and his agent to move quickly; trade offers could improve rapidly once Greinke is no longer in play.
"Something could happen on either front that would bring all of this to a conclusion," Alderson said. "I don't think that's going to happen today. It may not happen tomorrow. It may not happen in Nashville. So it's really hard for me to guess where this is ultimately going. But the sentiment that we've had from the beginning I think remains the same: We'd like to have him in New York."
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon was due to arrive in Nashville on Tuesday evening, in advance of Wednesday's news conference to announce third baseman David Wright's new deal. Wilpon's presence could speed along an extension or trade talks, though that much is nothing more than speculation.
Perhaps at the least, Wright can offer some advice. He and Dickey have spoken often throughout the past two months, according to McKinnis, discussing their statuses as players in flux. But unlike Wright, the face of the franchise, Dickey's history includes stops in Texas, Seattle and Minnesota.
He may be loyal to the Mets, but he does not fear life without them.
"It really became clear to us that David Wright only knows the Mets, and so I think it would be far more devastating to him to get traded," McKinnis said. "When I say it to R.A., yes he would be disappointed because he wants to be with the Mets. But on the other hand, using R.A.'s terminology, it would just be another step in the journey."