NEW YORK -- Had the Mets realized how valuable Hisanori Takahashi would be for them this season, they never would have inserted a clause in his contract allowing him to become a free agent after the season. But that is precisely what happened. Unable to agree upon a new contract with the Mets, Takahashi will officially become a free agent on Saturday at midnight. The two sides announced on Friday evening that they were unable to strike a deal.
Per Major League release rules, Takahashi, 35, will be ineligible to sign with the Mets until May 15, all but ensuring that he will pitch elsewhere next season.
"Unfortunately, the Mets and I were not able to reach an agreement prior to the expiration of our negotiating deadline," Takahashi said in a statement released by agent Arn Tellem. "I am grateful to the Mets for the opportunity to start my Major League Baseball career with such a great franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New York City and want to thank all the Mets fans for their support. I am now looking forward to exploring my options as a free agent."
"Hisanori wanted to test the free-agent market," general manager Sandy Alderson said in his own statement. "We thank Hisanori for his contributions to the Mets in 2010 and wish him good luck in his future Major League career."
In his rookie year, Takahashi impressed in a variety of roles, spending time in the rotation, at closer and in middle relief. Finishing with a 10-6 record and a 3.61 ERA, he held left-handed batters to a .217 average.
"Talk about flexibility, here's a guy that -- maybe not as effectively -- can start, can relieve," Alderson said at his introductory news conference last Friday. "There's a lot of value in that. We're going to look at it hard. On the other hand, we have to make a judgment about what we think he's worth."
The Mets drew Takahashi away from the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Central League with a Minor League deal last winter but allowed his former agent, Peter Greenberg, to insert an unusual clause forcing the Mets to either re-sign or release Takahashi by Nov. 1. Due to upheaval on both sides of the negotiations -- the Mets named a new GM; Takahashi switched agents from Greenberg to Tellem -- the two parties later extended that deadline five days.
But they were unable to complete a deal.
Takahashi's contention with the Mets reportedly had more to do with dollars than with his future role. He was seeking a three-year deal, according to multiple reports; the Mets offered one year with an option for a second. And Takahashi had little reason to relent -- though he will be 36 next season, his versatility should land him at least a two-year deal on the open market. Left-handed pitchers with track records of success do not often go unsigned.
Because Takahashi can not re-sign with the Mets before May 15, he has little reason to continue negotiating with them.
The Mets, meanwhile, officially have bullpen issues now. Compounding the effects of Takahashi's departure is the fact that longtime lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano, who made $2.9 million through arbitration last season, is also a free agent. Given the current state of the club, the Mets are unlikely to shell out upwards of $3 million annually for a 34-year-old lefty specialist.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.