Johan Santana and the Mets officially have severed ties.
The club announced Friday that it has declined a $25-million option on the pitcher, choosing to pay a $5.5-million buyout.
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The move was expected. With Santana recovering from his second major shoulder surgery, prompting questions about whether he will pitch again, the buyout was a mere formality.
For the first time in a sterling career that in recent years has been marked by injuries, the two-time Cy Young Award winner is a free agent.
"I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates and of course give a big thank you to the Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad,'' Santana said in a statement issued by one of his agents.
Santana, 34, continues to rehab from surgery with the intention of continuing his career. He hasn't ruled out a return to the Mets, though it would come at much more modest terms.
Before the 2008 season, Santana agreed to a six-year deal worth $137.5 million and immediately helped solidify the starting rotation. He threw the first no-hitter in franchise history in 2012, but shoulder surgery forced him to miss 2011 and 2013.
Santana went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA with the Mets and has a 139-78 record with a 3.20 ERA in 12 big-league seasons. He won the Cy Young Award twice with the Twins and finished third in 2008, his first year with the Mets.
"I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,'' Santana said in his statement. "But I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.''
Considering the seriousness of his shoulder injury, Santana faces an uphill climb if he is to complete a comeback, though he seems undeterred. Santana ended his statement with two words: "BELIEVE IT!''