Mets wait to see if Bay accepts contract offer

The New York Mets appear to be the leading candidate to sign Jason Bay and hope to hear back from the left fielder as soon as today.

Bay has been contemplating the Mets’ four-year offer for about $65 million. The Mets have told Bay that they’d be willing to guarantee a fifth year, but with a lower base salary.

It’s possible that Bay could accept one of those offers today, although it’s more likely that he’ll counter with a different proposal.

With his former team, the Red Sox, out of the Bay sweepstakes, the Mets are wary of bidding against themselves. The Seattle Mariners (concerns about Bay’s defense), Los Angeles Angels (more focused on getting a starting pitcher) and San Francisco Giants (not willing to spend the money) all seem to be trailing the Mets, who view Bay as a much-needed slugging outfielder.

Also on Thursday, the Mets agreed with Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi on a $3 million, two-year contract. They hope to make him their setup man.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound pitcher was 47-29 with a 3.25 ERA and 54 saves for the Yakult Swallows in the Japanese Central League from 1999 to 2009.

The Mets also are pursuing free-agent catcher Bengie Molina. They made a contract offer to Molina on the final day of the winter meetings last week, but they don’t expect him to make a decision anytime soon.

Around the horn

The Dodgers and free agent second baseman Jamey Carroll reached preliminary agreement on a $3.85 million, two-year contract. Carroll played the past two seasons in Cleveland, which offered him a two-year deal. … Third baseman Garrett Atkins and reliever Mike Gonzalez reached preliminary agreements with the Baltimore Orioles, people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.Gonzalez gets a $12 million, two-year contract and Atkins receives a one-year, $4.5 million deal with an option for 2011.