NEW YORK -- The Mets have taken a procedural step that four months ago appeared to be beyond improbable and one month ago seemed to be a foregone conclusion: They have exercised their option on the contract of Carlos Delgado.
The move, made Thursday, six days before they were contractually obligated to make it, secures the services of their 36-year-old first baseman for 2009 for $12 million. But because the club was obligated to pay Delgado $4 million if the option were not exercised, the net cost to the Mets is $8 million, a relative pittance for a player who fueled the team's strong, though ultimately unsuccessful, second half.
"Carlos is a key part of our plans for 2009, and we wanted to let him know as quickly as allowed that we wanted him back," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said on Friday in a statement. "Yesterday, the day following the conclusion of the World Series, was the first day that we could pick up the option, per [provisions in] the contract. It was our full intent to promptly close our deal with Carlos, and that's what we did."
Delgado, who earned $16 million for the 2008 season, became the primary force in the Mets' final 85 games. Some observers considered him the team's most valuable player and, until the Mets faded in their final 17 games, Delgado was included in most conversations about the NL MVP Award.
He produced 80 of his 115 RBIs, 60 of his 96 runs, 27 of his team-high 38 home runs and 20 of his 32 doubles in a period during which the Mets won 51 of 85 games. Judging by the reaction of Shea Stadium, his poor performance in the first 77 games was at least forgiven, if not forgotten.
And now his entire 2008 season, his third season with the Mets, has been rewarded.
Whether he will reap all of that reward as a member of the Mets may become an issue during this offseason. Despite Minaya's words about the Mets' plans, people familiar with the club's thinking have said trading Delgado is not impossible. One suggested it isn't even unlikely. The sense of it is that a package that includes Delgado could prompt a club in need of left-handed power to deal with the Mets. But there were no specifics mentioned other than the likelihood that Delgado's greatest value would be to an American League team that needs a designated hitter.
Before Delgado's surge began with a nine-RBI game against the Yankees on June 27, the Mets seemed intent to pursue Angels free agent Mark Teixeira to be their first baseman beginning in 2009. But Teixeira has been discussed less often of late, if only because the club must address more pressing priorities -- starting pitching, relief pitching and second base.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.