As anticipated, Oliver Perez didn't accept the Mets' offer of salary arbitration Sunday. So the club's pursuit of the veteran pitcher continues as it has been since he filed for free agency last month.

Nothing changed because of Perez's decision not to accept the offer by the Sunday midnight ET deadline. The Mets remain eligible to negotiate and sign the left-handed pitcher who has been in their rotation since early August 2006.

If Perez had accepted the offer, he would have been deemed to have signed with his salary to be determined by an arbitration panel next month or in early February.

Perez, represented by Scott Boras, is seeking a multiyear contract that would guarantee him significantly more, in terms of average annual value, than his $6.5 million 2008 salary. So arbitration can not provide what he wants. Only one-year contracts are available via arbitration.

As expected, the Mets offered Perez arbitration Monday and thereby assured themselves of gaining two early selections in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft in June if he signs with a different club -- the first-round rights of the club that signs him and a selection, the so-called sandwich pick, between the first and second rounds.

If not for a change in the rules affecting free agency, implemented two years ago, Perez would have a Jan. 19 deadline by which to re-sign with his former club. But that deadline was removed, as was the rule that a club not offering arbitration to its incumbent free agents would lose negotiating rights to the players.