Mets officially decline option on Putz
Infielders Cora, Martinez among those filing for free agency
NEW YORK -- The Mets' offseason to-do list has one more entry and their roster has one less. The club made official the expected move that eliminates J.J. Putz. It declined to exercise its option on Putz's contract for the 2010 season and thereby saved itself $8.1 million and added a tad more uncertainty to its bullpen.
The three-year, $13.1 million contract Putz signed with the Mariners in January 2007 included an option for the 2010 season for a $9.1 million salary or a $1 million buyout provision. The Mets chose the latter, making him eligible for free agency.
Putz was not among the 39 players who filed for free agency Friday. Mets infielders Alex Cora and Ramon Martinez were, as were catchers Bengie Molina, who interests the Mets, and Yorvit Torrealba, who is their third choice for a catcher after Molina and Rod Barajas. Barajas has not filed.
Putz was to have been the Mets' eighth-inning reliever in 2009, the primary setup man for Frankie Rodriguez. They thought theirs would be the most dominant eighth- and ninth-inning tandem in the National League. Nonetheless, the idea of playing $9.1 million for a setup man in 2010 unsettled them even before Putz threw a pitch in last year's Spring Training -- or the World Baseball Classic.
The elbow problem, a bone spur that was removed June 9, cost Putz most of the season and made the club's declination a foregone conclusion. Putz anticipated it. The club had until 10 days after the end of the World Series to act.
Putz, 33 in February, could re-sign with the Mets. The club intends to explore that scenario. And with or without Putz on the roster, the Mets would be as unsure of their bullpen as they were during the final four months of the season.
Putz is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow performed June 9. He and the Mets have been told that the minor tear in his medial collateral ligament detected in late August isn't expected to cause a problem.
"Neither doctor thought it would be an issue," the pitcher said last month.
Putz provided the Mets what they wanted until his stuff and availability was compromised by his elbow. And that scenario began weeks before the surgery. His first 20 appearances produced a save, a victory, a loss and a blown save in the same game, another loss and eight holds. He completed his first National League season with a 1-4 record, two saves, two blown saves, 10 holds and a 5.22 ERA. His ERA increased by 2.01 in his final three appearances (seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings).
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.