12/29/08 7:38 AM EST
Mets keeping starting options open
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
They intend to make offers early this week to at least two and probably three free-agent pitchers -- Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf -- in hopes of signing one of them. A person familiar with the club's immediate plans indicated as much Sunday, noting the club isn't likely to pursue free agent Joe Beimel, despite an apparent need for a left-handed reliever.
The Mets believe Lowe and Perez, both represented by agent Scott Boras, are more in position to sign now that one of Boras' higher-profile clients, Mark Teixeira, has agreed to a deal with the Yankees. They still view Wolf as a fall back alternate to the other two. There has been no indication the Mets will pursue more than one starter or that they will pursue any reliever to any great extent, opting instead to allow the market to slow even more.
The club still views Lowe as the most attractive of the remaining free-agent pitchers. The indications are the offers the Mets make to Lowe and Perez will reflect that view despite their difference in age -- Lowe turns 36 in June and Perez turns 28 in August -- and although re-signing Perez will not cost the club a second choice in the First-Year Player Draft in June. Like Perez, Lowe is a Type A free agent would carry that surcharge. The Mets already have forfeited their rights to a selection in the first round to the Angels by signing Francisco Rodriguez.
The Mets regard Lowe as more likely to be consistent from start to start than Perez, who has pitched in their rotation since early August 2006. Lowe has produced five seasons of at least 200 innings in last seven years. And he pitched 199 1/3 in another. Perez has averaged 156 1/3 in the last five seasons, making 135 starts, 33 fewer than Lowe. Johan Santana (234 1/3 innings, the most in the National League) and Mike Pelfrey (200 2/3) were the only Mets pitchers to exceed 200 innings during 2008. Perez pitched 194, the second highest total of his career.
Once the Mets fill the void in their rotation -- and there is no guarantee they will sign Lowe, Perez or Wolf -- they will be more likely to turn their attention to acquiring a middle infield reserve than a left-handed reliever. The trade of Scott Schoeneweis has left Pedro Feliciano as the lone left-handed reliever on the roster other than disabled Billy Wagner. But the club sees that apparent vacancy as one it can fill without intense pursuit of a free agent, such as Beimel.
General manager Omar Minaya seems more intent on acquiring a genuine middle infield understudy -- another Boras client, Alex Cora, is the Mets' preference -- than a reliever. He points to how the Mets brought in Feliciano and Darren Oliver in 2006 -- each was a lower-profle free agent commanding a modest contract -- and says other left-handed relievers can be had without financial investment comparable to the $10.85 million the Mets committed to Schoeneweis for 2007-2009.
Minaya also suggests the club could go forward without a second left-handed reliever, particularly if Duaner Sanchez regains his ability to handle left-handed hitting.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.