NEW YORK – After two days of meetings with the pitcher and his wife, the New York Mets offered free-agent closer Billy Wagner a three-year contract worth just more than $30 million, a deal containing an option for 2009 that could increase the package to $40 million.

“They’re not just trying to put a competitive team on the field, they’re going to put a winning team on this field,” Wagner said Tuesday.

General manager Omar Minaya believes Wagner is the pitcher to help them do it.

“It’s a judgment thing,” Minaya said at Shea Stadium. “To be a closer I think itself is something that’s difficult. But I do believe he has it to be able to do it in this town.

“The ability to bounce back, that’s what makes closers special.”

Bean Stringfellow, Wagner’s agent, said that he was pleased with the trip to New York. Stringfellow said the Mets’ offer had provisions in which the option year could become guaranteed.

“The visit went very well and went along way to answering whether the Wagners could be comfortable living in the New York area,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

While wooing Wagner, the Mets reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday to acquire power-hitting first baseman Carlos Delgado from Florida along with $7 million for first baseman Mike Jacobs and pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit.

Wagner was 4-3 with 38 saves and a 1.51 ERA last season for Philadelphia, which wants to re-sign him. After spending most of his career with Houston, his two seasons with the Phillies showed the left-hander he could handle pitching in a tough city.

“I think if I had an opportunity to play in New York four or five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been as receptive to it,” Wagner said. “After the trade of going to Philadelphia and playing there, I believe that’s made it that much easier to handle the media, the pressures.”

Wagner had lunch and dinner with a number of Mets officials Monday, including Fred and Jeff Wilpon and manager Willie Randolph. Minaya knows it will be difficult getting him to leave Philadelphia.

“It’s tough for a player to leave a team that he’s already accustomed to, so we have to work even harder,” Minaya said. “You have to give a reason why.”

Wagner mentioned some of the reasons, including his family being comfortable and him being able to reach 400 saves – he has 284. He also wants to play on a winning team, and the Mets are showing him they expect to be one.

“And that’s exciting when you know the resources and the things that they’re capable of doing,” Wagner said.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-23-05 1012EST

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