It was reported late last night that next year’s New York Mets payroll could very well sit around $100 million. There are a lot of teams that would kill for this kind of money, but considering the team’s 2011 Opening Day payroll was over $140 million, the reduction is actually quite drastic. In fact, the last time the Mets Opening Day payroll was below $100 million was in 2004, when the team spent just under $97 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The fact that the Wilpons are hemorrhaging cash doesn’t help the situation, but one of Sandy Alderson’s tasks when he was brought in was to get the payroll under control.
Sandy was pretty financially restricted this past offseason, having to deal with bloated contracts from the preceding regime. While Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez are no longer under contract next season, there are several players with big money deals that remain (and Bobby Bonilla), and represent a large percentage of the team’s payroll. Those players, plus impending free agents and arbitration eligible players, will keep Alderson plenty busy this winter trying to keep the Mets competitive while on budget. Here are some key money issues Alderson and Co. will have to deal with this offseason, with some math along the way.
Big Money Contracts
Johan Santana: Not having pitched at all this season, Santana is due to make $24 million in 2012. The southpaw has a 2.85 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 3.02 K/BB since arriving in New York. He’ll be back as the ace of the staff next year.
Jason Bay: Bay will earn $16 million next season, $18.13 if you include his signing bonus spread out over the length of his contract. This season, the left fielder is batting just .234/.318/.342 with nine homers and an fWAR of 0.2. Unless he shapes up, his contract might go down as one of the worst in Mets history (Mo Vaughn only lasted two years, sort of).
David Wright: In his final guaranteed year, Wright will make $15.25 million. Despite a slow start, Wright’s line is up to a respectable .268/.356/.449 with eleven dingers (he would have a few more if not for the Great Wall of Flushing). He’s still a threat in the middle of the lineup and his salary is fair.
Of the $66.83 million the Mets already have committed towards next year’s payroll, these three players account for $57.38 million, or about 85.9%
Free Agents To Be
Jose Reyes: Not that it’s a surprise to anyone, but Reyes will be the Mets top priority this offseason. The shortstop is hitting .336/.376/.505 on the season, but has been slowed twice by hamstring injuries. Whether his trips to the disabled list will depress his market value is up for debate, but it seems Reyes will make somewhere between 15-20 million dollars in 2012. Let’s say he stays with the Mets and does make $20 million next year; that would push the team’s payroll to about $87 million, spent on just four players.
Chris Capuano: Cappy is really the only other interesting Mets free agent to be. He was signed to a one year, $1.5 million incentive-laden contract this past offseason, and it appears he will realize some of those incentives. Capuano is 10-11 this season with a 4.41 ERA (3.92 FIP, 3.52 SIERA), 1.331 WHIP, 7.9 K/9 and 3.04 K/BB. At age 33, he’ll probably want a multi-year deal, which he might get from someone, but probably not the Mets. Unless he’d accept one or two years and be open to a move to the bullpen, I don’t see the Mets retaining him.
Other notable free agents: Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, Ryota Igarashi, Tim Byrdak, Chris Young, Manny Acosta and Jason Isringhausen. I could see Sandy holding onto Hairston, Byrdak, Acosta and even giving Young another shot, while letting Harris, Igarashi and Izzy try to find work elsewhere.
Mike Pelfrey: The Mets have a couple of interesting arbitration cases coming up this offseason, and Pelfrey’s could have a huge impact on the team’s payroll. Big Pelf is 7-11 this year, with a 4.65 ERA (4.49 FIP, 4.52 SIERA), 1.431 WHIP, 4.9 K/9 and 1.67 K/BB, while making $3.95 million. Despite his lackluster numbers, Pelfrey would probably get a rise through the arbitration process, due to his success in 2010 and durability (he’s been fairly healthy and can you 200 innings. each season). Pelfrey would probably top out at $6 million through arbitration, but even if he makes $5 million, that is roughly how much money Alderson spent on free agency this past winter in total. $6 million could equate to two or three decent relievers, or one disappointing starting pitcher. Either way, spending $6 million Pelf would up the team’s payroll to about $93 million.
Angel Pagan: Angel isn’t having the year he did in 2010, offensively and defensively. He’s hitting just .260/.317/.378 with three homers (although he’s looked a little better since coming off the disabled list back in May) and hasn’t always looked comfortable in center field. That being said, he’ll probably see his salary increaes from $3.5 million to about $5 million or so, increasing the Mets payroll to $98 million.
Others: Ronny Paulino, Bobby Parnell and Taylor Buccholz are also arbitration eligible this winter. None of these three should see a significant raise in salary, and the sum of all three wouldn’t be more than $4 million.
If everything occurred based on the above scenarios (and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will), the Mets payroll would be about $102 million before addressing any of their needs from outside the organization. If the payroll is $120 million, like Matt Cerrone hears, then that is OK since the Mets weren’t going to spend lavishly in the free agent market anyway. Even if the payroll is $110 million, that would still leave about $8 million to spend on presumably revamping the bullpen, which could be sufficient. But if payroll has to stay around $100 million, there would be virtually no room for flexibility. It’s impossible to know now what the budget will be, but it’s a situation worth monitoring and will impact how Alderson and Co. act this winter.
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