David Waldstein of The New York Times is reporting that the Mets imposed a deadline on themselves that almost certainly ensures Hisanori Takahashi will be pitching for someone else next season. Former Mets GM Omar Minaya signed Takahashi to a minor league contract that included an out clause for October 31st. And as Waldstein explains:
According to the major leagues’ Rule 8 (i) (2), any player who is released after midnight Aug. 31 and before the next opening day cannot sign a major league contract with the same team until May 15 the following year. He can sign a minor league contract, which Takahashi would probably not do, but cannot be called up to the majors until May 15.
The rule is designed to encourage salary escalation by providing steep penalties for any team that chooses to dump a player at the end of a season. Instead, clubs are encouraged to hold players and renew their contracts if they are pre-arbitration eligible, or go through the arbitration process if they are not. Because Takahashi has not accumulated enough major league service time to qualify for either arbitration or free agency, the Mets would ordinarily hold contract control over him for the next two seasons and then face arbitration with him in the subsequent three seasons.
It is likely that Takahashi's agent - Peter Greenberg - inserted the escape clause intentionally to avoid having his client bound to the Mets for the subsequent five seasons. A similar situation occurred with Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, who found that at the conclusion of the three-year contract he signed with the Red Sox he was subject to another three years of arbitration eligibility.
The Mets are in a difficult position, because they have yet to hire a general manager to replace Minaya who was re-assigned within the organization at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Former Padres president Sandy Alderson and former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes are reportedly the two finalists for the job. The window for negotiation runs out on Halloween leaving whomever is tabbed to take over a little leverage to retain the lefty who both started and relieved for the Mets, including a stint replacing Francisco Rodriguez following his arrest and suspension when he went 8 for 8 in save opportunities. It's a trick for the Mets but a treat for Takahashi.
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
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