The New York Mets and free-agent slugger Jason Bay have reached a deal.

A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press yesterday that the sides have a preliminary agreement.

The three-time all-star is expected to sign a four-year contract for about $65 million. The 31-year-old outfielder hit 36 home runs with 119 RBIs last season for Boston.

Bay is a career .280 hitter and has averaged 30 home runs and 99 RBIs in his last six seasons. He fills a huge hole in left field for the Mets, who skidded to a 70-92 mark during an injury-plagued year and were looking for a bopper. Eight players started at least seven games in left. Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, and Daniel Murphy spent the most time at the spot.

Bay produced in his 11/2 seasons with the Red Sox, but the sides couldn't agree on a new deal. He and leftfielder Matt Holliday were the biggest hitters on the market.

Holliday, who split last season in Oakland and St. Louis, is seeking an even richer deal than Bay.

Boston seeks Beltre. Free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and the Red Sox are quietly having discussions, reported.

However, a potential deal is complicated by the voiding of the Mike Lowell trade to Texas.

Beltre's signing could put the Red Sox over the luxury-tax threshold. He is widely regarded as one of the best defensive third basemen in the majors, and hit .265 with eight homers and 44 RBIs for Seattle last season.