Pedro, Mets return gig unlikely
Righty wants to be back, but club has other ideas for '09
NEW YORK -- Three weeks after Pedro Martinez filed for free agency, his agent has repeated essentially what former Mets coach Guy Conti said about his friend last month -- that the veteran pitcher wants to extend his career and return to the Mets. Interest reiterated hardly is interest reciprocated, however. The Mets' reaction on Tuesday to the published words of agent Fernando Cuza is, at best, lukewarm.
The same club that paid Martinez $53 million to restore a sense of credibility to the organization and to lead a rotation is all but certain that neither Martinez's status in the game nor his fastball has impact comparable to what existed in 2005, when he was a principal component in the Mets' renaissance.
"I'd be very surprised if he came back to us," a member of the Mets' hierarchy said on Tuesday morning. "We're going to need some arms at the back end of the rotation, so he could be in the mix for that if he wanted to come back. But we're not even sure he'd want to pitch for the kind of money he'd probably get."
The Mets have respect for what Martinez has done in the game and during his four seasons in their employ, no matter how limited his pitching appearances turned out to be. And though he was quite handsomely compensated for his contributions, the club still feels a sense of gratitude.
"Pedro was a big piece of the organization getting back on its feet," general manager Omar Minaya said last month.
Minaya didn't say the Mets' relationship with Martinez had ended, but he did speak of the pitcher, now 37, in the past tense. And others in the organization have been more to the point, noting Martinez's ineffective pitching in the second half of the 2008 season upon his return from injury.
Minaya, who was to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday morning, was not available for comment.
Martinez began working out in the Dominican Republic last month, Conti, his close friend, said.
"If he stays healthy, he can help any team and win 10 games," Conti said. "He knows he's not a No. 1, 2 or 3 starter. But he can still pitch. ... I think [the Mets] know Pedro could help if he is in a role different from what he's been in."
Martinez produced a 5-6 record with a 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. His inability to pitch deep into his starts -- he didn't complete the sixth inning in nine of the 19 starts that followed his return from injury -- consistently wore on the team's beleaguered bullpen.
The member of the Mets' hierarchy said he was unaware of any contact between the club and Martinez or Cuza, and that he considered a report in the Daily News in which the agent was quoted to be a message. He said, with Minaya hospitalized, the club was unlikely to move forward on any free-agent or trade front, and that an offer had been made to no free agent.
Paul Kinzer, the agent representing free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, said on Sunday that he anticipated no offer from any club until after his client's medical records had been received by all interested teams. The Mets thought they might receive the records on Tuesday. At the same time, the club hasn't altered its posture regarding Rodriquez, that a lower asking price from Kinzer would be necessary for the Mets to pursue the record-setting closer.
In non-specific preliminary discussions with the Mets, the club said, Kinzer didn't hold fast to the contract terms that had been attributed to him and widely circulated -- $75 million for five years. The Mets contracted to Billy Wagner for four years and $43 million and considered him "the one player in the [2005 free-agent] market he had to have."
The Mets don't have that same sense about Rodriguez, not with Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood also in the market and with other closers available via trade. The club's interest in White Sox closer Bobby Jenks has been overstated in some published reports, the Mets say. And while they retain interest in Huston Street, recently acquired by the Rockies, they say no deal is imminent, that they probably would use Street as an eighth-inning reliever and that his acquisition wouldn't preclude their pursuit of Rodriguez or Fuentes.
"We've talked about Street," the Mets official said. "He's better than what we have."
With all the focus on relievers, the club still has a void in its rotation -- whether or not Martinez returns. Moreover, it has no sense of what free agent Oliver Perez will do. That being the case, the Mets have expressed their interest in Derek Lowe to Scott Boras, the agent representing Lowe and Perez. They have not said they're in an either/or situation with the two Boras clients. They have interest in Perez, but they anticipate Boras seeking high compensation for him, based on the pitcher's age, 27, his left-handedness and his performance -- no matter how erratic.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.