Pitching options dwindling for Mets
Marquis headed to Nats; team denies interest in Pedro
NEW YORK -- The Mets' options in the pitching department of the free-agent market evidently have diminished once more. Not only can they not sign one starting pitcher they had coveted, they won't sign another starter they hadn't. Only in the twisted worlds of the Mets and today's "listen to what I heard" sports journalism can that sentence make sense.
So it was Monday that the Mets lost their chance to sign free agent Jason Marquis and said they have no interest in signing Pedro Martinez. Marquis became a topic of conversation because he had agreed to sign with the Nationals, the only National League East team to finish last season with a winning percentage lower than the Mets'. Martinez and the Mets were mentioned in the same breath once again because of an Internet report that said the club and the agent who represents the veteran pitcher had spoken.
ESPN.com reported the Mets had spoken with agent Fernando Cuza and that they had considered reconnecting with Martinez, now 38. The Web site, quoting no one by name, said the pitcher's "price tag at the moment appears to be more" than the Mets are interested in guaranteeing. Later, once club executives were contacted by reporters seeking confirmation or comment, the Mets said through a spokesperson they had "no interest" in the pitcher who had been theirs for four years at a cost of $53 million. That statement was consistent with the Mets' stance all last season. The 5-1 record and 3.63 ERA Martinez produced in nine starts with the Phillies in 2009 apparently didn't convince the Mets that Martinez was a solution for their rotation.
With Marquis, John Lackey and Randy Wolf now unavailable, the Mets could be down to the last of the preferred free-agent starting pitchers -- Joel Pineiro. But there has been no indication that they have any great interest in him. The $29.75 million contract Wolf signed with the Brewers appeared to spook the Mets. They hadn't expected Wolf to command such a figure and were prompted to look past the other starters they considered mid-range and less accomplished than Lackey. They did develop a belated interest in Lackey based in part of Wolf's deal, though not one comparable to the Red Sox's interest -- $85 million.
At the same time, the Mets continued their pursuit for the two free agents to whom they made offers on the day after the Winter Meetings -- left fielder Jason Bay and catcher Bengie Molina. The club indicated nothing had changed with either player since Friday.
A player the Mets actually have signed spoke publicly about why he did opt to move his career from the Japanese Central League to Citi Field. In an afternoon conference call with reporters and an interpreter and without any member of the club's decision-making staff, reliever Ryota Igarashi said, off conversations he had with the Mets, he expects to pitch in setup relief as he did for the Yakult Swallows. "Obviously, there are no guarantees," he said.
But a person familiar with the Mets' plans indicated Monday they intend for the right-handed 30-year old to fill a primary late-inning role, that the club intends to make additional bullpen upgrades and that it has spoken with the agent representing former Pirates closer Matt Capps.
The Mets haven't contacted the agent for Mike MacDougal, the person said. Capps and MacDougal became free agents last week when they were not tendered contracts by, respectively, the Pirates and Nationals.
Igarashi, who has signed a two-year contract, said he had come to see the Mets as a team that is "no doubt ... very easy to join" for players from Japan. He would become the 10th such Mets player, following: Takashi Kashiwada (1997), Hideo Nomo (1998), Masato Yoshii (1998-99), Satoru Komiyama (2002), Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001, '03), Kaz Ishii (2005), Shingo Takatsu (2005), Kazuo Matsui (2004-06) and Ken Takahashi last season.
Through his interpreter, Igarashi said, "As a competitor looking to pitch in the World Series, the Mets came highly recommended by [Japanese] teammates" who had played for the Mets. He identified Ishii, the one-time Dodgers pitcher, and Takatsu, who made nine relief appearances with the Mets, as players who had influenced his decision.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.