Free-agency decisions loom after Series
Mets likely to attempt signing Perez, not quite as interested in Martinez
NEW YORK -- The filing period for free agency has been delayed along with the conclusion of the World Series, so the Mets can't yet know what to make of the free-agent marketplace or, for that matter, their own potential free agents. Notable among the latter are Oliver Perez and Pedro Martinez, pitchers responsible for one third of the team's starts and untold consternation last season.
Each was what he had been through most of his previous one-plus seasons with the Mets -- Perez an enigma and Martinez a disabled-list assignee.
Now, with the 15-day filing period for free agency about to begin -- players can file at midnight ET following the final game of the World Series -- the Mets appear to have differing views on the two pitchers. Perez has value to the Mets, Martinez seemingly does not.
The club has said nothing publicly about either or its interest in another potential free agent, Derek Lowe. But its posture is established; the Mets pursue Perez so long as the asking price of agent Scott Boras is what the club considers reasonable, and it will not pursue Martinez unless circumstances change dramatically.
Martinez has decided he wants to pitch -- he is training in the Dominican Republic -- but his diminished effectiveness and tendency to break down has reduced his appeal.
The Mets' stance with Perez seems self-evident, and their stance with Martinez understandable. The club will treat Perez as it does almost any free agent; that is it will establish a sense of his value and then not go beyond what it considers appropriate.
The club makes exceptions in exceptional cases. Although their acquisition of Johan Santana in February was via a trade, the Mets treated his signing as if he were a free agent. They determined his value to them and then exceeded it.
That will be the case with neither Perez nor Lowe. The club would be more inclined to go beyond its own parameters if it becomes involved in the pursuit of CC Sabathia. But there has been no indication Sabathia is included on the Mets' wish list. For now, he is in their fantasy, the one that has them going into Philadelphia on May 1 with Santana, Sabathia and Mike Pelfrey lined up to challenge the defending league champions.
Having endured a season when their bullpen was overworked and under-effective, the Mets want starters who will all but assure them of completing six innings and, preferably, pitch into the seventh inning. Perez, to the delight of the Mets and the surprise of anyone who had monitored his first 52 starts with them, became borderline reliable in that regard soon after Dan Warthen replaced Rick Peterson as pitching coach in June. Having fallen short of six innings eight times in 14 starts under Peterson, Perez pitched at least six innings in 14 of his first 15 starts under Warthen.
His final six starts, however, included three in which he pitched 3 1/3, 4 1/3 and 5 1/3 innings. So the club is well aware Perez hasn't been cured, and that the label afforded him in the 2006 postseason -- a pitcher who responds well to important assignments -- is not all that accurate.
Perez's production in 2008 -- a 10-7 record and 4.22 ERA in 34 starts and only 194 innings -- doesn't appear to be what Boras needs to seduce other clubs into joining a feeding frenzy. So, with other suitors not likely to be so intent on signing Perez, the Mets may not face a full field of pursuers. Yet, Perez can have some curb appeal -- a 27-year-old left-handed starter with postseason experience and the ability to shut down any offense.
But a closer look detects what the Mets already know, that Perez still is a pendulum pitcher, able to dominate any opponent or be gone after two innings regardless of opponent.
Martinez's situation is quite different. If he were willing to return to the Mets as a fifth starter for considerably less money, perhaps they would have rekindled interest in him. But, again, his recent history of injury, and his diminished velocity and stamina work together to put greater reliance on the bullpen in his starts. The Mets can't have that.
"Pedro wants to pitch," former bullpen coach Guy Conti said last week. "If he stays healthy, he can help any team and win 10 games. He knows he's not a No. 1, 2 or 3 starter. But he can still pitch."
When the Mets announced the revisions in the coaching staff last week, Conti was not among those returning. A close friend of Martinez, Conti had served as the bullpen coach for four years -- as long as Martinez has pitched with the Mets -- but he opted not to retain that position for personal reasons. Conti's absence is not necessarily linked to any decision regarding Martinez, though.
Martinez, pitching at age 36, produced a 5-6 record and 5.61 ERA in 20 starts and 109 innings in 2008. The Mets lost seven of his last 11 starts. He was the winning pitcher three times in his final 16 starts.
"I don't know what Jerry [Manuel, manager] and Omar [Minaya, general manager] are thinking," Conti said. "But I think they know Pedro could help if he is in a role different from what he's been in.
"I know he's working out and getting past the death of his father. It was an emotional year for him -- the injury, his father and the team not winning. When he came back after the funeral, he said he was getting ready to pitch and he hadn't had time to cry. [He said] 'I looked at the casket and two days later, I was pitching.' It was a rough season with a lot of losses."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.