INDIANAPOLIS -- Before boarding a late-afternoon flight back to New York City, Omar Minaya departed the scene of the Rule 5 Draft to complete the sum of his Winter Meetings labor: send out a contract offer to free-agent catcher Bengie Molina and left fielder Jason Bay.

Slow work week, it seems.

Unlike last year, when Minaya took flight with three new players stuffed in his luggage, the Mets left Indianapolis with no tangible accomplishments to their credit. They did not sign a catcher, a pitcher nor a left fielder. And other than reaching out to Molina and Bay, who seem like snug fits, the Mets did not come particularly close to completing anything.

And so the team is settling in for what is sure to be a long and laborious winter.

"I thought that the Meetings have been productive," Minaya said. "Ideally, you would like to say you've either signed some free agents or you've made some trades."

The Mets did neither, but they insist that's just fine. What they did do is analyze the market, coming away with a far better sense of what it's going to take to import various types of pitchers.

When Randy Wolf signed with the Brewers for three years and just south of $30 million, the Mets realized that inking a similar pitcher -- say, Joel Pineiro -- would cost more than they anticipated. So the team resolved to at least take a look instead at John Lackey, who will cost more but who may provide more bang for the buck.

Rather than spend for a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, as the Mets anticipated doing, they are now more committed to opening the purse strings wider if it means acquiring their No. 1 target.

Perhaps agent Scott Boras was on to something Wednesday when he called the Mets an economic "juggernaut," insisting that they "can sign any player they want to sign." As they relate to Boras' top client, left fielder Matt Holliday, those words may mean little. But the Mets are clearly not as averse to spending money as many thought they might be heading into this offseason.

Any pending fireworks, though, must wait. Aside from Molina, none of the Mets' major free-agent targets are likely to sign soon, with little supply and heavy demand inflating the market for the top three players available -- Lackey, Holliday and Bay. The Mets may only be likely to sign one of those three, but they now seem to have a greater chance to do so. And you can thank Indiana for that philosophical shift.

"I definitely have a better idea of where it's going," Minaya said of the market. "But what I do sense is that patience is going to be the [thing] that's going to lead going forward."

So patience is what Minaya continues to ask from his fans.

"All I can tell Mets fans is that in the past, every year that I've been here, we've gone after players," he said. "If there was a player out there that we felt was a need, every year I think we've done the best we can to address those needs. And we're going to continue to do that."

Deals done: None. The Mets dotted no I's and crossed no T's at the Meetings, though they did plan to offer a contract to Molina before boarding a plane back to New York.

Rule 5 activity: In the Major League portion of the Draft, the Mets selected right-handed pitcher Carlos Monasterios from the Phillies, only to trade him within minutes to the Dodgers for cash considerations. The Mets were active in the Minor League portion of the draft, selecting right-handed pitchers John Lujan and Rolando Valdez, first baseman Marshall Hubbard and left-handed pitcher Orlando Lara. They did not lose any players.

Goals accomplished: If nothing else, the Mets left Indianapolis with a better sense of how the free-agent pitching market is going to unfold. Entering the Winter Meetings with their eyes on free-agent pitchers such as Wolf and Pineiro, the Mets are now committed to at least make a run at Lackey. Then there's the matter of Molina, who, should he choose to accept what the Mets are offering, could sign soon.

Unfinished business: The Mets still need a left fielder -- preferably one with some pop -- and don't appear to have made much progress on that front. They still need a starting pitcher, though the market for Lackey may take some time to settle. And, barring any movement on Molina, they still need a catcher. In other words, nothing has changed since this time last week.

GM's bottom line: "I think across the board, all the GMs that I've talked to, this has been more of a slower-paced meeting, more of a patient meeting for most of the guys." -- Minaya