New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden will become a free agent after next season if the team doesn't sign him to a long-term contract extension before he reports to spring training, according to a published report.

Gooden wants to avoid the contract uncertainties that teammate Darryl Strawberry has gone through this season, New York Newsday reported in Wednesday's editions. Strawberry, whose contract expires at the end of this season, has said he plans to file for free agency."I don't want to go through what Straw went through," Gooden told Newsday. "I don't think that's good for a player. I don't want to have to go out there every start thinking I have to have a good start because if I don't it'll cost me money. I don't want to be bothered with it in spring training, either."

Gooden, who signed a three-year, $6.7 million contract after the 1988 season, said it's up to the Mets to make the first move.

"I don't think it's up to me," Gooden said. "I understand they wanted to see if I was healthy this year and could pitch like I did before. Well, I think I've showed them that. I would think that they would want to sign me. But I'm not going to ask.

"It's their call. If they don't do anything, then they're telling me to go ahead and be a free agent. They're sending me a message that they don't want me that much or that they think I won't leave. But if they don't do anything, they're leaving me no choice."

Mets general manager Frank Cashen said the team has not decided how to handle the situation.

"Do we have a game plan?" Cashen said. "The answer is no. We haven't ruled it in or out. There are many things you have to consider. Long-term contracts rarely work out, maybe one in 10 or so. What do you do with everybody else who is one year away? Do you sign them? Do you trade them? These are things you have to think about."

Gooden, who finished the season with a 19-7 record after a 9-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night, is 119-45 in seven seasons with the Mets.