Two days in, and the Vegas Winter Meetings have featured a few unexpected twists, amongst them the Red Sox talking with Carl Pavano and the Astros looking to dump Miguel Tejada just one year after trading for the former AL MVP (to be fair, it would be a bigger surprise if they found a taker).  If you’ve been paying attention to the economy however, there might be little shock in the New York Mets signing Francisco Rodriguez for less money per year than was guaranteed to Billy Wagner four years ago. It would seem Derek Lowe is recession proof, the reigning saves per season record holder is not, and the New York Observer’s Howard Megdal seems postively chuffed with the signing, writing “it isn™t as if it much mattered if a Mets closer could pitch in the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, but K-Rod™s signing makes it far likelier that such a talent will matter for the Mets in 2009.”

While saves are only a marginally useful stat, it is worth noting that more predictive numbers indicate that the K-Rod deal is a solid one for the Mets. Rodriguez has a career strikeout rate of just below 11.7 per nine innings, which is sensational. Even with a first half that was a struggle only by Rodriguez™s own previous standards, he still posted a season K-rate of 10.14, and in the second half, that number rose to 12.46.

There are plenty of other reasons that this signing is a best-case scenario for the Mets. For one thing, despite the likelihood that Rodriguez will dominate for the life of his contract, he is still a pitcher, with all the attendant injury risks. But by virtue of the economic slowdown, no other team had the resources and willingness to spend on a closer.

The Yankees have Mariano Rivera, of course, and the Red Sox have Jonathan Papelbon.

As a result, not only were the Mets able to lock in Rodriguez for a lower per-season rate than the Yankees gave Rivera last off-season, they were able to sign him for the same three-year commitment as Rivera”despite Rodriguez being more than a decade younger.

Rodriguez™s age also means he slots in nicely with New York™s other stars. Rodriguez will be 27 on Opening Day 2009, David Wright will be 26, Jose Reyes will be 25, and Johan Santana will have just turned 30”all should be in the peak of their careers. With secondary contributors like John Maine (27), Mike Pelfrey (25), Ryan Church (30) and should he re-sign, Oliver Perez (27) also in the sweet spot of baseball™s aging curve, the Mets will have maximized their chances of cashing in on the best seasons of their core.