The Mets, Spending, & 2014


Over the last week or so, there have been an avalanche of articles about the Mets and their claim that they’re ready to spend significant dollars on adding pieces to the 2014 club.  The tone of these articles has ranged from skeptical to “not going to happen.”

May 7, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon walks off the field after watching batting practice before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that the Mets have financial flexibility and a number of holes to fill, there are many who are convinced that the team won’t spend a substantial amount on free agents this coming offseason.

While it’s fair for people to be skeptical of the Mets’ claims, the majority of the articles addressing the issue have been hyperbolic.  Moreover, they’ve also ignored facts.

At the end of the 2011 season, with the Mets still mired in the Bernard Madoff mess, the team was unable to sign free agent shortstop Jose Reyes.  Even if the Mets had the financial flexibility to hand Reyes the contract he desired, the team (led by fiscally conservative Sandy Alderson) may have still balked.  The deal Reyes (who has since been dealt to Toronto) signed with Miami was back-loaded in an outlandish way.

Since then, the absurd $1 billion dollar sum that Irving Picard sought from the Mets as part of the Madoff settlement was whittled down to $162 million.  I’m not privy to the amount of money the Mets still owe lenders, and I’m not a financial expert.  However, people who are claiming the Mets’ player decisions are at the mercy of the lenders are ignoring a pretty large elephant in the room.

Prior to this season, the Mets handed David Wright an eight year deal worth $138 million dollars.  If the Mets are indeed at the mercy of their lenders, and those lenders signed off on the Wright mega-deal, there’s no reason to believe they won’t sign off on lesser deals the team may look to hand out this winter.

Another key fact that’s being ignored, is that the Mets (with the contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana still on the books), made a serious push to sign free agent Michael Bourn prior to this season.  Those negotiations were complicated and eventually destroyed by the fact that the Mets would’ve had to surrender their top draft pick (and a large portion of their draft money) had they signed Bourn.  It was reported that the Mets were Bourn’s first choice.  However, the draft pick compensation issue killed the potential deal.

To recap…the Mets emerged from the Bernard Madoff mess with a very favorable settlement, handed a mega-deal to David Wright less than a year ago, and were prepared to hand another substantial contract to Michael Bourn prior to spring training this year.  None of those occurrences should lead anyone to believe that the team is about to have a spending freeze – and that’s before you realize just how little money the Mets have committed to player salaries for 2014.

With the Johan Santana and Jason Bay contracts expiring, the Mets will have a shade over $33.5 million dollars on the books heading into 2014 (if you count the buyouts the club owes to Santana and Bay).  That figure was reached before taking arbitration raises and the contracts of players who are making near the minimum into account.

When you account for those deals, the Mets will likely have a shade over $55 million on the books.  That $55 million takes into account the money owed to David Wright and Jonathon Niese, and contracts (including arbitration raises in some cases) for Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Scott Rice, Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda, Jeremy Hefner, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker (or a similar backup catcher), Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Gonzalez Germen, Juan Lagares, Zack Wheeler, and Vic Black.

There are those who believe the Mets will fill out the remainder of the roster with bargain basement type deals, and others who feel the team will only re-invest $15 to $20 million.  That would leave the team with a payroll going into 2014 that’s somewhere between $60 million and $75 million.  If anyone wants to push that as a possibility, that’s their prerogative.  However, it would be both stunning and ridiculous if the Mets entered the 2014 season with a payroll between $60 million and $75 million.

The fact that Matt Harvey’s status is up in the air puts a bit of a crimp into the 2014 campaign, but it doesn’t erase the fact that the team will have Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Jenrry Mejia all ready to fill rotation slots – with Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard all close to ready.  The Mets should be settled at third base, second base, center field, and catcher.  That leaves them in need of a starting pitcher, and upgrades at shortstop and the two corner outfield spots.

Conceivably, the Mets could dedicate close to $40 million dollars of the 2014 payroll to external free agents, and still have a payroll that’s less than the 2013 payroll was.  It’s been rumored that the team is very interested in pending free agent Shin-Soo Choo, and that they could make a run at signing shortstop Stephen Drew.  Doing so would likely add about $25 million to next year’s payroll (assuming the deals aren’t partially back-loaded).  The Mets could also go in a different direction, and target someone like Curtis Granderson, who will likely get a much less lucrative deal than Choo.

It’s also expected that the team will add a starting pitcher, and Tim Lincecum‘s name has been tossed around.  It’s been reported that Lincecum will be looking to sign a one or two year deal with the purpose of rebuilding his value and cashing in again when that deal expires.

With or without Harvey, the Mets – if they play their cards right – should be able to contend in 2014.  Sandy Alderson has made it known that the Harvey situation won’t change the team’s course heading into the offseason as it pertains to their plan to spend.

Everyone is free to have their own opinion and draw their own conclusions.  However, expecting the Mets’ Opening Day lineup in 2014 to be identical to the one they’ve been trotting out over the last few weeks (as some have predicted) is laughable.  The team might not go wild and sign multiple top tier free agents, but I expect that they’ll spend a large chunk of money on a number of high quality players.

The Mets have payroll flexibility, they’ve stated their intentions, and the fans are anticipating action.  I’ll eat crow if the Mets have another offseason that resembles last year’s, but I just don’t see it happening.  I expect the team to spend a significant amount, and spend it wisely.  I’m looking forward to the end result, and the rest of the fanbase should be as well.

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