NEW YORK -- Not until Groundhog Day did the Mets complete the transaction that made their 2008 season as successful as it turned out to be -- the acquisition of Johan Santana. No one comparable awaits them now as they work to make their 2009 season more successful. The moves of significant impact, those importing Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, already have been made.
The Mets are likely to complete the roster revisions before Feb. 2, but not too much earlier. Despite activity last week in the free-agent and trade markets, the club anticipates a lull because of the holidays and the uncertainty involving free-agents Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez and deliberate pace at which their agent Scott Boras operates.
Boras also represents free-agent starters Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez as well middle infielder reserve Alex Cora, each of whom is among the first five entries on the Mets' wish list. The club is well aware of Boras' pace, and it suspects the pursuit of Lowe and Perez won't intensify until Teixeira's and Ramirez's futures are determined. The possibility of the Mets signing a lesser alternative isn't precluded, but the club is unlikely to act on picking up another starter until it's satisfied it has done all that is possible -- and financially feasible -- to bring in Lowe.
The Mets' initial read of the asking price for Lowe was "Zito money." The Giants signed Barry Zito between the 2006 and '07 seasons for an annual average salary of $18 million, a figure significantly greater than the Mets' assessed value of Lowe. Whether or not their read was accurate, it now appears Lowe can be purchased for between $16 and $17 million, still more than the Mets are apt to spend, particularly if the length of the contract is four years. Lowe will be 36 in June.
But if Boras' asking price has been reduced, what's to say it can't be reduced again if the clubs pursuing the veteran pitcher don't present proposals consistent with the agent's figure? The Mets have learned patience works for the shopper as well as agents.
They do have a contingency agenda, and that is what involves Randy Wolf, Tim Redding and other starters. Wolf, because he is left-handed and because he likely will cost less than half per year what Lowe will cost, has some appeal. Inking Redding would more consistent with the Mets' signing of Jose Lima in 2006. Redding would serve as a No. 5 starter or in reserve. If he were to sign, the impressions Jon Niese would make in Spring Training -- not his ERA and record, but the Mets' sense of his readiness -- might determine Redding's immediate future.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.