The New York Mets were handed an extension to negotiate with reliever Hisanori Takahashi, but with the new deadline just two days away now, it seems odd that they haven’t pulled the trigger.

Yes, Takahashi has a new agent and yes, new GM Sandy Alderson needs time to evaluate the alternatives, but it’s surely a no-brainer to retain the southpaw’s services.

Takahashi was one of the most valuable cogs in a vastly underwhelming pitching staff in 2010, and there is little doubt that he earned every cent of his $1 million contract.

He started as a mid-to-late one-inning reliever, quickly took on the role of a long reliever, made a dozen games as a starter, went back to a mid-innings role and then saved six games as a stand-in closer in September. He can come into a game, face two hitters and leave after five pitches, or he can toss six or seven innings and hit 110 pitches.

On a team where the strength of pitching is uncertain, he is the ultimate utility arm.

Nobody on the Mets staff was as versatile as Takahashi and few pitchers in the game this year, let alone left-handed pitchers, were used in as many different situations. No left-handed batter took Takahashi deep in 126 plate appearances last season.

Yes, Takahashi is 35 years old, and while there are undoubtedly some merits to refusing to offer him a multi-year extension, there is absolutely no reason not to keep him on board for 2011.

Ryota Igarashi will earn $1.75 million in 2011 and John Maine earned $3.3 million in 2010 and is eligible for arbitration this offseason. Give Takahashi the extension he deserves.

New York isn’t going to be too competitive in the free agent market until 2012 at the earliest, and while they might make one or two moves, relief pitching is not going to be a priority.

In the same vein, the Mets do not have the cash to drop on left-handed veterans such as Scott Downs, and there is no need to even consider other free agents like Mark Hendrickson or Trever Miller.

Sandy Alderson said coming to an agreement with Takahashi was one of his most pressing early priorities as GM. This is your first order of business, Sandy. Fans seem to like the direction you want to take the club. Don’t disappoint them with your first personnel decision.

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