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11/09/09 9:24 PM EST

Minaya plans to be aggressive on market

Mets GM identifies slugger, starting pitching as top priorities

CHICAGO -- The Mets suffered through a 92-loss, injury-plagued 2009 season. But Omar Minaya, the team's general manager, is trying to avoid a repeat performance.

To that end, Minaya said the Mets will be very aggressive in the free-agent market this winter with the top priorities being a slugger for the middle of the lineup and more starting pitching.

"After last year, our offense is an area we want to address," Minaya told the media as the GMs gathered for their annual meetings here on Tuesday and Wednesday. "We led the league in hitting, but I think we need to find a way to score more. I'd like to see us slug more than we did this year. Starting pitching is another area we have to look at, we have to address."

Minaya also said there are few restrictions being placed on him regarding how much he can spend. Last year, the Mets' nearly $150 million payroll was second in baseball behind the Yankees, who spent $201 million.

"If there's an opportunity we like, we're going to pursue that player," he said. "It's not that we have a set dollar figure, a set number."

The Mets and their .270 team average were actually tied with the Dodgers for tops in the National League. But their 671 runs were 12th and their 95 homers were a dead last out of the 16 teams.

Pitching wasn't much better. The Mets were 12th with a 4.45 ERA and 39 saves and 10th in home runs (158) allowed. The top winner on the staff was Johan Santana with 13. Only Mike Pelfrey joined Santana in double digits with 10.

A lot of this can be prescribed to a rash of injuries involving their top players: Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Santana. Some of the power woes can be blamed on the high walls and deep power allies of new Citi Field. But the Mets hit 49 homers at home and 46 on the road.

Minaya said he'd like to fix some of these problems through either free-agent signings or trades.

"We've been talking to some clubs for awhile, but it's going to take time," he said. "Some free agents have yet to declare. This could go all the way out to the Winter Meetings [Dec. 7-10 in Indianapolis] and beyond. Last year, some free agents signed late. We'll see how it goes."

One thing seems abundantly clear, free agents Delgado, who played 26 games because of various injuries, and Gary Sheffield probably won't be in the mix. Sheffield, who said he'd like to return to the Mets for the right price, filed for free agency on Monday.

Sheffield, who was released by the Tigers near the end of Spring Training and picked up by the Mets, played in 100 games, batting .276 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. He'll be 41 years old in nine days.

Minaya was judicious when asked about Sheffield.

"He's going to be in the pool of guys who are going to be free agents that we'll have to consider," he said.

Minaya was equally judicious about the state of this year's free-agent market, which is relatively underwhelming with right-hander John Lackey, outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay and third baseman Chone Figgins at the top of the class.

"Some years are better than others," Minaya said. "There are some players out there that we like, but as I said, some years are better than others."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.