NEW YORK -- The Mets, as expected, offered salary arbitration to Oliver Perez on Monday, thereby assuring themselves of compensation -- two additional picks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft in June -- should the free-agent pitcher opt to sign with a different club. The Mets did not offer arbitration to any any of the other players from their '08 roster who, like Perez, filed for free agency last month.
The others include Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Damion Easley, Luis Ayala, Tony Armas Jr., Orlando Hernandez, Ramon Martinez, Trot Nixon, Ricardo Rincon and Matt Wise. The club remains eligible to negotiate with all 11 players.
Extending arbitration rights to Perez is a procedural step, important only because of the possibility of additional Draft choices. Should he sign with a club other than the Mets, they will receive the first-round rights of the club signing the left-handed veteran and a sandwich pick, made between the first and second rounds of the draft. They would have forfeited all compensation if they hadn't offered arbitration and Perez signed elsewhere.
Little chance exists that Perez will accept the Mets' arbitration offer. If he does, he will be deemed as signed for the 2009 season, only with his salary to be established by an arbitration panel next month or in early February. He has until 12 p.m. ET on Dec. 7 to accept or decline.
Perez, 27, is seeking a multiyear contract with an average annual value far greater than the $6.5 million salary he was awarded in arbitration in February.
The Mets hope to re-sign Perez despite his mostly erratic performance during his two-plus seasons with them, but only if his asking price is consistent with what they assess his value to be.
He did demonstrate a degree of consistency last summer after Dan Warthen replaced Rick Peterson as pitching coach. Perez completed the sixth inning in 13 successive starts, producing a 2.44 ERA in that sequence. Yet he finished his seventh big league season with a 4.22 ERA and 10-7 record in 34 starts and 194 innings.
But with Martinez unlikely to return, the Mets have a void in their rotation, a void that doubles if Perez signs with another club. The club had hoped to lure free agent Derek Lowe, who, like Perez, is represented by Scott Boras. But the club says the contract Boras is seeking for Lowe is comparable to what the Giants afforded Barry Zito in December 2006 -- seven years for $126 million. The Mets' interest in Lowe has waned considerably, creating greater urgency in their pursuit of Perez.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.