"Unfortunately, the Mets and I were not able to reach an agreement prior to the expiration of our negotiating deadline," Takahashi said in a statement released by his agent. "I am grateful to the Mets for the opportunity to start my Major League Baseball career with such a great franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New York City and want to thank all the Mets fans for their support. I am now looking forward to exploring my options as a free agent."
"Hisanori wanted to test the free agent market," new Mets GM Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "We thank Hisanori for his contributions to the Mets in 2010 and wish him good luck in his future major league career."
Takahashi, who pitched for the Mets this past season after spending 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, had a clause in his original contract which called for him to be released last Sunday if the sides could not agree on a new deal.
With Takahashi making a late switch in agents to Arn Tellem, and Alderson hired by the Mets just last week, the sides had agreed to extend the deadline by five days.
Without that clause, Takahashi would have been under the Mets' control until he had six years of major league service time, as is the case with players who come through the minor leagues.
Because MLB rules now prohibit Takahashi from re-signing with the Mets and pitching in the majors before May 15, the release all but ensures Takahashi will pitch elsewhere next season.
The 35-year-old Takahashi went 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA and eight saves in 53 appearances (12 starts) in his first season in the majors.
Given the uncertainty about when Johan Santana will be able to contribute to the rotation next season following shoulder surgery, Takahashi's versatility could have been valuable to the Mets. Also, the Mets are at risk of losing their other primary left-handed reliever, workhorse Pedro Feliciano, as a free agent.
Still, Takahashi may be more suited as a reliever with fill-in starting ability than a potential full-season rotation contributor. In his 12 starts this season, the first time a batter faced Takahashi in a game, he hit .229. In his second plate appearance, his average rose to .293. In his third plate appearance and beyond, his average was .381.