Free agent Wolf confirms Mets' interest
Left-hander could replace Perez in New York's rotation
NEW YORK -- The need for an additional left-handed pitcher in the Mets' rotation seems to increase with each day that Oliver Perez doesn't re-sign. The trades that removed Scott Schoeneweis and Aaron Heilman from the Mets' roster made the bullpen almost frighteningly susceptible to left-handed hitting. And then there is the matter of the Phillies' batting order and its recently increased left-handed predominance.
And Randy Wolf, as left-handed as any pitcher this (port) side of Randy Tomlin, is quite available.
Circumstances that developed since Thursday strongly suggest the Mets and Wolf could benefit mutually from an arrangement based on supply and demand. If nothing else, the Mets' need and Wolf's left-handedness are worthy of a good, loud "Hmmmm."
The Mets appear to be beyond the connect-the-dots stage with the veteran pitcher. Wolf himself acknowledged as much Monday night during a telephone conversation. The Mets, he said, have been in contact with his agent, Arn Tellem, and, in Wolf's words, "have shown some interest." It is hardly a surprising state of affairs.
Since the day Perez filed for free agency, a void has existed in the Mets' rotation. And that void appears greater now that the Phillies could have three left-handed-hitting run producers -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and new left fielder Raul Ibanez -- in the middle of their regular batting order. "I'm not sure how [the Mets] would see that," Wolf said. "But I'd think that would play into it." Of course, teams other than the Mets play the Phillies and have need for righty-lefty balance in their rotations. The Mets are hardly alone in their interest in Wolf.
"There's been significant interest, especially since [CC] Sabathia and [A.J.] Burnett signed," he said. The Yankees, Orioles, Dodgers, Braves and Giants are thought to have interest. The 32-year-old Wolf preferred not to discuss his other suitors.
The Mets have some appeal to him, seemingly the same appeal the Yankees would have -- they are likely to be a competitive team, and they play in the Northeast. "I like the intensity of the fans in the Northeast," Wolf says.
He is quite familiar with the area, though he is a native of California. He spent the first eight of his 10 big league seasons with the Phillies. "Everyone's accountable in the Northeast," he said. "You hear it if you have a bad game, and you'll hear it you have a good one. It was that way in Philly, and I'm sure it's that way in New York."
Not that the Mets' needs are urgent; they demonstrated a deliberate approach in their successful pursuit of Francisco Rodriguez until they applied the full court press last week at the Winter Meetings. But with Perez represented by Scott Boras, who makes negotiations feel like a taffy pull, Wolf is likely to reach his decision before Perez and allow his new club to go about its business.
Moreover, he is likely to be less expensive than the younger, more erratic Perez, who is certain to seek significantly more than the $6.5 million he was awarded in an arbitration case against the Mets in February. Wolf earned more than Perez in 2008, $8 million, but his base salary was $4.75 million.
Perez could return; general manager Omar Minaya handicapped the situation as 50-50. Or the Mets could import Wolf. Chances of both happening appear slim, even though the only apparent certainties in the rotation number three -- Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine. Rookie Jon Niese is only a possibility.
Wolf produced a 12-12 record with the Padres and Astros last season, winning six of eight decisions with the Astros after July 22. His 10-year career has produced a 90-78 record and 4.26 ERA. He has an 11-5 record and a 3.34 ERA in 28 career starts against the Mets, so signing him could spare them some eventual challenges.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.