Here’s something you probably already knew: Jose Reyes is currently the longest tenured Mets player. Reyes made his debut back in 2003, as a teenager, and presumably 2011 will be his ninth consecutive season in a Mets uniform. This is sort of crazy.
But this is also a half-truth of sorts. Reyes has been on the Mets consecutively since 2003, but Pedro Feliciano made his Mets debut a year earlier in 2002 — when Rey Ordonez was still the Mets shortstop — and has never pitched for another major league team. Feliciano did, however, spend all of his 2005 on sabbatical, pitching for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan’s Pacific League. Due to that he only holds the claim for longest tenured member of the New York CitiBank Mets in spirit, though it certainly feels like he’s been in Queens forever. Feliciano has become another unnoticed part of the Flushing landscape, like those Men In Black flying saucers and the endless auto body shops on 126th Street.
Feliciano’s non-title of longest tenured Met is in jeopardy, as he is currently a free agent. The Mets offered him salary arbitration, with the deadline to accept or decline being Tuesday night. If Feliciano accepts, he will probably make somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million dollars for 2011. If he declines and signs elsewhere, the Mets will receive an additional draft pick next season, as Feliciano has been classified as a type-B free agent. The Mets and Feliciano can continue to negotiate even if he rejects their offer for arbitration.
More importantly, however, this impending decision has led to my new favorite parts of free agency: minor free agents negotiating through the media over holiday weekends.
Over this past weekend, Feliciano’s agent, Melvin Roman, told Newsdays’ Ken Davidoff that Feliciano was “seriously considering accepting the Mets’ arbitration offer.” Davidoff posted the news on Twitter, and on a slow holiday weekend during the off-season, this became baseball news.
Let’s digress and really deconstruct this news for a second, because I think there are a lot of weird things in that seemingly straightforward announcement.
On the surface level, Roman’s statement is simply a bland one of fact. Pedro Feliciano has an offer that is worth about $4 million dollars sitting on the table. So, yes, he probably is seriously considering accepting the Mets’ offer of arbitration. If I had an offer for $4 million dollars, I would seriously consider accepting it, too. That’s probably more money than I’ll ever have at any single point in my life. So that statement is in all likelihood true.
But on the next level down, everyone knows there’s NO WAY that Feliciano accepts the Mets one-year, $4 million dollar offer. Before the 2009 season, Damaso Marte, another situational lefty, received a three year, $12 million dollar deal from the Yankees. The Mets gave Scott Schoeneweis a three-year, $10.8 million dollar deal before 2007. Feliciano probably won’t get a deal for that many seasons … but then again, someone is always willing to throw too many years and too many dollars at anything breathing and lefthanded. And Feliciano is actually good. He can do better than one-year, $4 million. Roman’s statement must be a negotiating ploy, an attempt to put pressure on other interested teams.
Except that everyone — me, you, my mother, your mother, Melvin Roman, Pedro Feliciano, Jesus Feliciano, Jose Feliciano — recognizes this as a negotiating ploy. And since I know it’s a ploy, I’m going to assume that the people whose job it is to know that it’s a ploy … probably know that it’s a ploy.
So what’s the point? If the ploy is so obvious that just about anyone can spot it for what it is, why did Feliciano and his agent make an announcement at all? Does this mean that the ploy itself a ploy? Who’s kidding who!
I see two possibilities:
1. Feliciano’s agent, Melvin Roman, is the most literal and honest human being on the planet. Roman is incapable of comprehending or giving out sarcasm, bluffs, or lies; he was simply telling Davidoff the truth without an ulterior motive. For somewhat related reasons, Roman is invited to many poker games and finds the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic” especially confusing. In this scenario, Pedro Feliciano should probably get a new agent.
2. Feliciano’s agent was trying to stir up interest in his client by making a somewhat bland announcement over a somewhat bland holiday weekend. I suppose this approach worked because I’m writing about Pedro Feliciano right now. Well played, Roman. Well played.
Free agent negotiations are weird.
So anyway, here’s what I think about this whole deal: Feliciano will not accept arbitration with the Mets. Someone will overpay for Feliciano — a good LOOGY is worth about $3 million dollars per year, but someone will give him two-years, $8 million dollars, or three-years, $12 million — and that team probably won’t be the Mets. I don’t think Feliciano will be in blue and orange next season.
But I also think everyone is underestimating how weird that is going to be.
Since returning from the East in 2006, Perpetual Pedro has pitched in 408 of the Mets’ 810 games — 50.3%, or more than half. This means that if you have watched any single Mets game in the past five years, there is a better chance than not that you saw Pedro Feliciano pitch in it. Since the beginning of 2009, only David Wright, Luis Castillo, Angel Pagan, and Jeff Francoeur — position players — have played in more games for the Mets than the lefty specialist. If you’ve been a serious Mets fan in the fairly recent past, Pedro Feliciano has become a bigger part of your life than you may have realized. He has represented quiet stability for a relatively unstable organization, and he is probably leaving just as things are becoming stable.
The Mets not having Pedro Feliciano is going to be like those observation tower fly saucers disappearing. He’s just a situational lefty, and they’re just awkward pieces of Robert Moses’ sixties. Everything will function pretty much the same without them. But the first time Ryan Howard comes to the plate against the 2011 Mets in the seventh inning, it’s going to feel really weird.