NEW YORK (AP) – Now that they have Carlos Delgado, the New York Mets are turning their attention to Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez.

General manager Omar Minaya said Friday the team had made offers to the pair of free-agent catchers. He also refused to rule out trying to acquire Manny Ramirez from Boston, although he wouldn’t go into specifics.

“We will have conversations sometime this week, hopefully not this weekend,” Minaya said during a telephone conference call. “It’s been two Thanksgivings now that I’ve been working every day.”

With Mike Piazza leaving, the Mets have made it a priority to get a catcher, especially one with better defensive skills. Going after both Molina and Hernandez is somewhat unusual.

“I was honest. I let them know I have two offers out there. They’re both very good catchers,” Minaya said. “We might possibly go the trade route, also.”

Alan Nero, Molina’s agent, said no decision was imminent.

“We got initial offer from them. Because of the holidays, we haven’t had a chance to go over it,” he said. “It’s an initial offer. We’re expecting offers from several other teams, and we have lot of work to do.”

Last year, Minaya had Thanksgiving dinner with Pedro Martinez. The three-time Cy Young Award winner signed with the Mets, a moved that helped New York persuade center fielder Carlos Beltran to join them a few weeks later.

Delgado, the other major free agent Minaya went after, spurned New York to sign with the Florida Marlins. But with Florida slashing payroll, the Marlins sent the first baseman to the Mets on Thursday for first baseman Mike Jacobs, right-hander Yusmeiro Petit and infielder Grant Psomas. The Marlins will give the Mets $7 million to offset part of the $48 million Delgado is owed over the next three years: $1 million next season, $2 million in 2007 and $4 million in 2008.

Minaya wanted to get the deal done before a decision was made by Paul Konerko, the top power hitter on the free-agent market. He figured teams that failed to land Konerko might get involved in talks to acquire Delgado.

“Any time a cleanup hitter, a guy that hits 30 to 40 home runs and 125 RBIs (is) out there in the marketplace, you better not be too slow,” Minaya said.

New York hopes Delgado, David Wright, Cliff Floyd and Beltran will combine to provide a consistent offense threat.

“When you look at championship teams, they usually have a presence,” Minaya said.

Minaya, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and team chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, spoke with Delgado, who is scheduled to be at Shea Stadium for a news conference Monday. Last March, Delgado told the Toronto Star that he didn’t like the way Minaya and assistant Tony Bernazard focused on his Hispanic heritage when trying to recruit him.

Minaya said reports of friction between Delgado and Bernazard were overblown.

“Tony and Carlos have spoken,” Minaya said. “Tony and Carlos go way back.”

In another potentially touchy subject, Delgado protested the U.S.-Iraq war by refusing to stand when “God Bless America” was played at major league ballparks. Balancing Delgado’s free-speech rights and the patriotism expected from players by some fans in New York could be a delicate balancing act.

“I don’t have an answer to that question right now,” Minaya said. “At some point in time, we will sit down with Carlos and talk about those issues.”

The 33-year-old Delgado, a two-time All-Star, he hit .301 with 33 homers and 115 RBIs in his lone season with the Marlins, reaching 30 homers for the ninth consecutive year. His defense, however, is shaky.

“The bottom line is his offensive production,” Minaya said. “We’ve seen him play. He holds his own over there.”

Notes: Talks with closer Billy Wagner will resume next week. The Mets have offered a three-year contract for just over $30 million with a 2009 option that could become guaranteed and make the deal worth $40 million. Philadelphia wants to re-sign Wagner. … Minaya said trading outfielder Mike Cameron to San Diego on Nov. 18 for Xavier Nady helped gain payroll flexibility. Cameron will make $6 million next season.

AP-ES-11-25-05 1418EST


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