Looking ahead to 2016 the Mets roster will have some dramatic changes taking place from who goes north this year. Along with those changes come some salary relief that can address any issues that arise this year. Let’s take a look at how things may differ this time next year.
The rotund Opening Day starter with the 7.01 ERA will be a memory. Bartolo Colon’s contract ends and there’s no reason to think the team would want him back. It’s not a matter of age but simply good business. No matter how well he does this year, there’s a pipeline of starters behind him, including Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, Matt Bowman and Tyler Pill. Now if he pitches well this year, then the Mets can benefit by trying to flip him somewhere such as Minnesota where they just lost Ervin Santana to a PED suspension for half a year.
Behind him you have Dillon Gee, the newly named 5th starter. He’s the new Mike Pelfrey in that he shows enough flashes of competency that you could delude yourself into thinking he’s a part of the solution, but numbers suggest he’s no better than a 4/5 starter on most team. Again, that same pitching pipeline of minimum waged hurlers will price Gee out of his job. At $5.3 million he’s fairly paid for what he delivers, but he’s not ten times better than the people knocking on the door (and likely not a better pitcher than they are). If he’s still on the team by the end of the year he’s a non-tender candidate.
Now the interesting one is Jon Niese. If he pitches well this year he could find himself on the trading block as well. He’s earning a reasonable $7 million but staying healthy has been his problem. When he’s not battling injuries he’s thrown some gems but he goes up to $9 million next year. The Mets probably are hoping he hurls 180-200 quality innings to open up the possibility of trading him elsewhere to save money.
I haven’t forgotten Matt Harvey or Jacob de Grom. What I wish for them is health and a 1-2 punch to head up the rotation next year.
Right now the Mets are featuring two men who have served as closers, newly shorn Jenrry Mejia and surgically repaired Bobby Parnell. Parnell is earning $1.4 million than Mejia despite having thrown just an inning in 2014 and starting this season on the DL. When both are available and healthy it will be interesting to see which direction they take with the role. Some have written critical comments about the amount of personality Mejia exhibits and he has some issues with control. Parnell successfully converted himself from a triple digit thrower into an effective reliever, but if he takes over the closer’s role during 2015 then he’ll be in for a big bump in pay come next year. For now
I’m penciling both in for the 2016 bullpen.
Backing them up are two guys who seemingly have closer’s stuff in Vic Black and Jeurys Familia. Despite the former’s shoulder issues and the latter’s lackluster Spring Training there’s no question about their ability when healthy.
Behind him are the southpaw newcomers, Alex Torres and Jerry Blevins. They are likely pitching for their futures. Torres is still in the controllable low-wage years but Blevins is already earning Mejia money. I could see a Dario Alvarez replacing him if he can learn to harness his control.
Josh Edgin is likely out until the All Star Break, so there will still be a need for guys like Sean Gilmartin to take up the innings he would have provided.
Rubber-armed Carlos Torres reinvented himself as a reliever when he got to the Mets and provides a steadying presence to a sometimes volatile pen.
Whether the Mets can manage to lock up Lucas Duda before the season or roll the dice and wait until afterwards, the fact remains he’s likely manning Keith Hernandez’s old position for the foreseeable future.
Daniel Murphy must definitely see the handwriting on the wall when the club locked up Juan Lagares, are considering doing the same with Lucas Duda and no such effort has been made on his behalf. Franklly, you can’t blame them as they have Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera playing middle infield positions and set to earn minimum wage when they make it to the majors to stay. At $8 million already, Murphy is a goner. The only question is whether it happens during the season via trade or at the end of the year when he departs as a free agent.
Wilmer Flores is one of the true wildcards for the team. He’s been an solid run producer throughout the minors and this Spring did nothing to dissuade people that his bat is for real. The questions about his glove and his range will always be there (much like they are for Murphy), but a shortstop who can produce 15/65 is a hot commodity. Considering he’ll be making close to minimum wage, it makes him both desirable to the Mets and also trade bait with a middle infield with high potential playing in Las Vegas.
David Wright will collect $20 million this year to play the hot corner and another $20 million is carved in stone for 2016 as well. This Spring he’s looked healthy and productive, so the salary might yet prove to be equitable.
The other wild card for the Mets is Travis d’Arnaud. His well document tale of two seasons had converted most into true believers, but with just one extra base hit for the entire Spring Training season you have the doubters coming out of the woodwork again. Kevin Plawecki is the first insurance policy in AAA, plus you have the surprising Johnny Monell showing a lot of pop in his bat as well. Hopefully what’s behind him in AAA will motivate d’Arnaud to kick his offensive game into gear. His defensive game, well, it’s still a work in progress.
This area is one where there may not be any changes at all pending health of all three outfielders. Michael Cuddyer’s salary jumps from $8.5 million this year to $12.5 million next year. Juan Lagare’s newly minted contract sees his salary jumping about $5 million higher. Curtis Granderson will be paid $16 million once again. Hopefully this year and next, unlike 2014, he actually earns it.
So you have several key departures expected in Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy and possibly Jon Niese and Jerry Blevins. If all indeed came to fruition the Mets would suddenly find themselves flush with a cool $13-$15 million of payroll savings.
The question is what would you do with that money? I’ve already assumed salary increases for Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey and others….but there will still be that big chunk of money leftover. Where would the team seek to upgrade?
The obvious answer to me is the outfield. Neither Curtis Granderson nor Michael Cuddyer are getting any younger, plus Cuddyer’s deal ends in October of 2016. There’s no guarantee Brandon Nimmo can adjust to the next levels of pitching he faces (witness his struggles in AA last year). In addition, no matter how aggressively they promote Michael Conforto there is no assurance he’s ready to start next season in the majors since he’s only in High A to start this year.
So how would you spend that payroll surplus?