The Mets officially non-tendered Pelfrey, along with outfielder Andres Torres and pitcher Manny Acosta, in advance of Friday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline. Though the move does not necessarily end the rehabbing right-hander's time with the organization, it does represent a significant kick in that direction.
Pelfrey is now a free agent, and though the Mets can negotiate to bring him back on a less-lucrative deal, the incentive for doing so appears small.
For starters, Pelfrey is less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, with no guarantee that he will be ready for Opening Day. Though this operation is hardly a death sentence, Pelfrey's recovery could prevent a signing team from receiving six full months of his services.
More important, the Mets no longer have room for him in their rotation. Their starting five currently consists of R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with Zack Wheeler and others waiting for midseason callups. The Mets could trade a starter between now and Opening Day, but they cannot bank on that course of action. So if they re-sign Pelfrey, the Mets would be unable to guarantee him more than a relief role or a spot in the Triple-A rotation -- not necessarily tempting offers considering the significant pay cut.
Then there is the matter of performance. Though Pelfrey seemed to be on his way to a strong season prior to his injury, a sample size of three starts is hardly foolproof. Overall, he has gone 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA during his time with the Mets, seemingly taking a step back each time he moved forward. Along the way he has transformed his pitching style, changing from a power-sinker aficionado to more of a splitter-slider connoisseur.
It all adds up to a non-tender situation that could spell the end of the former top prospect's time in Queens. It is easy to forget that Pelfrey, the Mets' first-round Draft pick in 2005, was once as highly regarded as Harvey is now.
"He's one of my favorite guys," manager Terry Collins said in September. "He's really upbeat. He feels great."
The club's other non-tendered players have shallower roots in the organization. Torres, 34, battled injuries last summer after a trade brought him and Ramon Ramirez to New York in exchange for Angel Pagan, now a World Series champion with San Francisco. When healthy, Torres hit .230 with 13 stolen bases in 374 at-bats.
It is possible that the Mets could look to re-sign Torres on a smaller deal, but with the veteran more likely heading elsewhere, they may turn to Kirk Nieuwenhuis as their full-time center fielder.
The final non-tender is Acosta, who was actually one of the club's best relievers over the second half of the season. From July 24 through the end of the year, Acosta posted a 1.78 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. But because he produced an 11.86 ERA in 19 appearances before that, his overall body of work took a significant hit. He could have made upwards of $1 million through arbitration.
Non-tendering becomes viable when a club does not feel that a player is worth what he could earn through arbitration. All players who have between three (sometimes two) and six years of service time are eligible for arbitration, a process that determines the value of one-year contracts.
The team will tender contracts to Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and Josh Thole, all of whom fall under the arbitration umbrella. Coming off a poor offensive season, Thole was a fringe non-tender candidate, but the organization is thin enough at catcher that the Mets decided to retain him.