Unlike the Yankees, who have landmark contracts to negotiate this offseason with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the Mets get off relatively easy with their handful of free agents. Jose Reyes has an $11-million option that must be exercised by Nov. 15, but that’s a no-brainer to be picked up, whatever Sandy Alderson’s future plans are for the shortstop.
A few of the arbitration cases are a little stickier, but let’s start with the free agents:
Hisanori Takahashi – The Mets took a low-risk gamble on signing Takahashi, a 35-year-old rookie, to a minor-league contract that wound up worth $1 million and it paid off big as the versatile lefthander went 10-6 in 53 games, including 12 starts. When K-Rod was lost to season-ending surgery, Takahashi also was a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances, nearly becoming the first Japanese pitcher to record double-digits in both wins and saves in one season. Happy with his Mets’ experience, Takahashi seemed destined to return until he switched agents from Peter Greenberg to Arn Tellum four days before his first deadline. Tellum does have a good relationship with COO Jeff Wilpon, but it appears doubtful the Mets can establish his value by Friday’s new deadline, and he’s likely looking for a deal in the 2-yr/$5-million range. Takahashi could find it elsewhere – maybe even the Yankees -- but is he willing to roll the dice? Verdict – Tough call, won’t return.
Pedro Feliciano – With a nod to Gary Cohen, “Perpetual Pedro” has averaged 89 appearances over each of the past three seasons, with a career high 92 this year, so Feliciano has been leaned on heavily as a lefthanded specialist. Could the innings finally be catching up to him? His 1.532 WHIP was up big from the ’09, when it was 1.163. Also, his BB/9 were up and SO/9 were down. Also, when the Mets experimented with him in more of a set-up role, he was exposed against righthanders. Feliciano, who turns 35 next year, earned close to $3 million this season, and may be in danger of overpricing his role. Verdict – Won’t return.
Henry Blanco – Great clubhouse presence and a solid veteran influence for the pitching staff. But Blanco turns 40 next season, and that’s getting old for a backup catcher. He fought through some minor issues this year, and has a chronic shoulder problem, so Blanco just can’t be reliable as a backup, even with infrequent duty. Verdict – Won’t return.
Elmer Dessens, Kelvim Escobar, Fernando Tatis – You’re kidding, right? Dessens actually pitched well at times, even in a setup cameo, but it’s time to move on. Escobar practically swiped $1.5-million from the Mets after showing up hurt to spring training. One of the more damning moves for Omar Minaya. As for Tatis, we’ll always have ’08 and ’09. Thanks for the memories. Verdict – Gone, gone and gone.
Mike Pelfrey – Because he fell just short of arbitration last year, Pelfrey earned only $500,000 this season, so the 26-year-old righthander is due a pretty big raise in ’11. How big? Well, Pelfrey had career bests in victories (15) and ERA (3.66) in his third straight season of 30-plus starts. Also, his agent is Scott Boras, who hasn’t been on best of terms with the Mets lately. It’s doubtful the Mets will be successful in cutting a longer term deal, and that means it could be a dogfight to avoid the team’s first arbitration hearing since 1992. Verdict – 1 yr, $6.5 million.
Angel Pagan – The uncertain health of Carlos Beltran means that he likely will not be traded this offseason, but Pagan still remains extremely valuable as the backup centerfielder and starter in right. A speedy defender, the switch-hitting Pagan also had a breakthrough season at the plate (.290-.340-.425) with 11 home runs and 37 stolen bases in 46 attempts. Like Pelfrey, he was a nice bargain, earning just $1.5 million for that production. With Beltran headed elsewhere after ’11, Pagan is a logical replacement if he keeps this performance up, and he doesn’t become a free agent until after the ’12 season. Verdict – 1 yr, $4.5 million.
John Maine, Sean Green – It’s non-tender city for these two. Maine’s career is in jeopardy after a series of mysterious shoulder ailments and an unexplained drop in velocity. Green came to the Mets will plenty of promise in the infamous J.J. Putz deal, but never came close to being as good as he was initially advertised. Verdict – Goners.