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Mets save $850G of Kyle Farnsworth money with advance consent clause

Travis d'Arnaud and Kyle Farnsworth of the Mets

Travis d'Arnaud and Kyle Farnsworth of the Mets celebrate after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Kyle Farnsworth, minutes after he was unexpectedly cut by the Mets late Wednesday night, said, "I'm very bitter right now."

He also said, "It totally caught me off guard."

It shouldn't have -- if Farnsworth had been aware of an important part of his contract called the "advance consent clause."

On March 26, Farnsworth agreed to a minor-league deal with the Mets after they had released him three days earlier. He was called up April 2 and his contract became a major-league deal for $1 million. But unlike most MLB player contracts, it was not guaranteed for the whole season.

That's because of the advance consent clause, MLB's little-known version of the NBA's 10-day contract.

The clause allowed the Mets to send Farnsworth down at any time within 45 days of his first day on the team with his contract reverting back to a minor-league deal at minor-league pay. That deadline was Saturday.

It is something the Mets pushed for in negotiations; Farnsworth didn't have to agree to it, but then the Mets could have simply not signed him. (Farnsworth signed with the Astros Saturday and earned a hold despite being roughed up by the White Sox.)

The Mets also got the concession from lefthander John Lannan, the Long Beach native who made the Opening Day roster, but was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on April 16.

A veteran player with enough service time has the right to refuse an assignment to the minors and can request his release instead. That player is paid his entire salary -- unless his contract includes the advance consent clause.

Some agents think the clause is becoming an increasingly popular tactic for clubs looking to hedge their bets on fringe veterans. It's not new; it has been part of the collective-bargaining agreement with the union since the mid-1990s.

Already this season, lefthander Randy Wolf requested and was granted his release from the Seattle Mariners at the end of spring training because they reportedly asked him to renegotiate his contract and add the clause. Wolf, 37, had made the team as the fifth starter.

Earlier this week, though, Wolf signed with the Miami Marlins for a prorated $1 million and accepted the clause. The difference, he told, was timing -- signing with Miami during the season versus signing with Seattle in the offseason.

Officially, the Mets didn't release Farnsworth on Wednesday. They "optioned" the 38-year-old to Las Vegas and removed him from the 40-man roster. The option belonged to Farnsworth; he could have accepted the assignment and taken a hefty pay cut.

Not surprisingly considering his comments, Farnsworth chose to become a free agent.

"It's unfortunate Kyle decided to elect free agency because we would have liked to have had him in Las Vegas," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "That was his choice."

Farnsworth's agent, Barry Meister, did not return a call seeking comment.

This was the second time in less than two months the Mets made a money-saving decision with Farnsworth.

Remember when they originally released him March 23? That was to avoid paying him a $100,000 "retention bonus" that essentially would have given the Mets the right to stash Farnsworth at Triple-A until June 1. When Farnsworth couldn't find another team, he re-signed with the Mets.

(At the same time, the Mets decided to give Daisuke Matsuzaka the $100,000 retention bonus. He started the season in the minors and was called up to replace Lannan.)

So all told, the Mets paid Farnsworth about $250,000 for 19 appearances that included a stint as the team's closer. Farnsworth was 0-3 with a 3.18 ERA and three saves -- including one against the Yankees two days before he was cut.

The Mets saved a total of $850,000 by releasing Farnsworth before the retention bonus kicked in and then using the advance consent clause. That's no small total for the franchise -- about 1 percent of their total payroll of $85 million.

Alderson said the Mets simply preferred Matsuzaka and Jose Valverde to Farnsworth when they needed a roster space to add one of their prized young pitchers.

But when asked if the decision to option Farnsworth was guided by finances, Alderson said: "I guess what I would say is that there's a financial element to every decision that we make."

With Marc Carig

New York Sports