Bengie Molina, the Mets' top target remaining on the free-agent market, has signed a one-year deal to remain with the Giants.
Earlier Tuesday, ESPN.com reported that Molina had rejected a two-year contract offer from the Mets. It had been reported as far back as December that the main sticking point between the two sides was contract length -- Molina wanted a guaranteed three years, while New York originally offered one year with an option.
Earlier this month, Molina reportedly dropped his demand to two years, sparking talk that an agreement was imminent. But Molina ultimately opted to head back to San Francisco for only one year and $4.5 million.
SI.com reported that the Mets offered Molina more than $5 million.
In 132 games for the Giants last season, Molina hit .265 with 20 homers while guiding San Francisco's pitching staff to the league's highest strikeout total and second-lowest ERA.
The signing leaves the Mets without an obvious starting catcher. Earlier this season, they inked backups Henry Blanco and Chris Coste to deals, but neither is a starting catcher by nature. Atop the depth chart sits Omir Santos, who filled in admirably for Brian Schneider last season -- but who also projects as a backup.
Last week, however, the Mets sounded prepared to proceed with Santos as the starter.
"Getting a chance to talk to Omir today, he's ready to go," third baseman David Wright said at a charity function. "We're more than confident moving forward with Omir."
A final internal option, Josh Thole, impressed during a brief stint with the Mets down the stretch last season. But New York would prefer to give Thole, 23, more seasoning in Triple-A.
That leaves the Mets with two options: either they can proceed using a rotation of Santos, Blanco and Coste, or they can pursue the next-best catcher on the open market. Former Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas and Rockies backstop Yorvit Torrealba remain unsigned, and 1050 ESPN radio reported late Tuesday that the Mets may target Torrealba next.
"We have had discussions, but nothing is close," Torrealba's agent, Melvin Roman, told the New York City affiliate. "We did say we would talk. I'm waiting to hear from [general manager] Omar [Minaya] and see where we go from here."
The Mets nearly signed Torrealba after the 2007 season, but they balked after the catcher reportedly failed a physical. Torrealba later filed a grievance against the club, claiming that the Mets created the false impression that he was an injury risk.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.