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Monday, December 12, 2011

Time is running out on decision to offer Paulino arbitration

The clock is up on Ronny Paulino. The Mets must decide by midnight ET on Monday night whether or not to offer arbitration to Paulino, who disappointed in his first season in New York.

Signing with the Mets for $1.3 million at the Winter Meetings last year, Paulino reported late to Spring Training due to visa issues, sat out the season's first eight games to satisfy an outstanding performance-enhancing substance suspension, then missed another two weeks due to a blood disorder. When he played, Paulino struggled, hitting .193 with one home run from July 4 through season's end.

Should the Mets non-tender Paulino, they would shed his $1.3 million salary (plus a small potential raise through arbitration), allowing them to expand their budget for pitching and bench upgrades. In Paulino's wake, the team would almost certainly proceed with Josh Thole and defensive-minded Mike Nickeas as its Opening Day catchers; it is unlikely that the Mets would cut Paulino, then turn around and sign another free-agent catcher for similar money.

Non-tendering Paulino would also free up the space needed to add relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, whom the Mets unofficially acquired last week, to their 40-man roster. With Paulino on it, the roster currently stands at 39.

The Mets eliminated their only other real non-tender decision last week, trading center fielder Angel Pagan to the Giants for fellow outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez. Though both Torres and Ramirez are also eligible for arbitration, neither is going anywhere.

The only other arbitration-eligible player on New York's roster is right-hander Mike Pelfrey, once a fringe non-tender candidate. But the Mets value Pelfrey's ability to deliver around 200 innings per season and thus will tender him a contract.

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