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02/03/09 3:10 PM EST

Perez signs three-year deal with Mets

NEW YORK -- Not long after the World Series ended, Oliver Perez and the Mets parted ways, each searching for something better. And not too long after their amicable divorce, the pitcher and club realized that they might find their way back to each other.

After a season with 17 no-decisions, the most in Mets' history and a big league high of 105 walks, Perez was not pursued as he and agent Scott Boras had hoped. And once the Mets fixed their bullpen, they were unable to meet their secondary objective -- signing Derek Lowe. Perhaps by default, they came to view Perez as a suitable means of filling the void in the rotation that Perez created when he filed for free agency in November.

Now they are back as one following a brief trial separation. The Mets officially announced on Tuesday that they signed the left-hander to a three-year deal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports indicated that the club had agreed to a three-year, $36 million contract with the southpaw. This deal means that the Mets will probably check out of the free-agent market.

If this is the case, the Mets' dance with Pedro Martinez will be their last contact as potential employer-employee. Their rotation now appears to include Perez, Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, with the fifth slot open to competition among Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia and rookie Jonathon Niese.

So it is that the Mets are about to begin Spring Training with a roster that -- aside from the extensive remodeling of the bullpen -- is quite similar to the roster that ended last season.

The greatest differences outside the 'pen are the departure of Endy Chavez, the acquisition of those who will vie to take his place as the No. 4 outfielder -- Jeremy Reed and Cory Sullivan -- the acquisition of Alex Cora to replace Damion Easley as the primary middle-infield understudy and the signing of Redding and Garcia. All of which is to say that the "regular team" is virtually unchanged except for the bullpen.

Hot Stove

The difference for Perez, 27, is that he pitched last season for $6.5 million, a figure established when he prevailed in the Mets' first salary-arbitration case in 16 years. Now, by virtue of the contract he agreed to on Monday, he will earn an annual average of $12 million for three years. A scout familiar with the value of the contract and Perez's performance assessed the contract in these terms -- "That's No. 2 starter money, and he's not a No. 2."

The Mets may not ask Perez to be that if Pelfrey progressed in 2009 as he did last season or if Maine, healthy again, has a full season and performs consistently. But Perez's pay will be undiminished.

Perez's second full season with the Mets produced a 10-7 record and a 4.22 ERA. He started 34 games, pitched 194 innings and, as has been the case through much of his career, he was inconsistent. He did have 16 consecutive starts in which he pitched at least six innings. But that was followed by no-decisions in his last five starts, three of which became Mets losses. His 17 no-decisions were two more than Masato Yoshii in 1998.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.