The fallacy I tried to point out is that Murphy required a multiyear commitment of $37.5 million. The Mets are not paying that salary to him. Furthermore, the trade of Jon Niese for Neil Walker had a net cost of $1.5 million in salary differential for just an obligation to this single year. $37.5 million (or if you prefer, $12.5 million per year) vs. $1.5 million for Neil Walker and what he’s thus far produced – I’ll make that deal every day of the week.
Furthermore, the acquisition of Neil Walker was a gambling hedge on a couple of fronts. He could get a qualifying offer from the Mets, walk away and the Mets would gain a compensatory draft pick. Assuming Dilson Herrera is for real, you have a minimum wage player and a top draft pick for your one year investment of $1.5 million. All in all, that’s pretty shrewd business.
He was also a hedge against the inevitable decline of David Wright who demonstrated last year he’s no longer capable of being an everyday player as a result of his failing health. Should Wright follow in Michael Cuddyer’s footsteps and retire after this season, the Mets have a gaping hole at 3B that’s been filled by Wright since John Kerry ran for President and 3 years before the iPhone was invented. Walker has played 3B before and could slide over there to take Wright’s place.
Now to secure Walker’s services is going to cost you. Figure a starting point would be around what Ben Zobrist got from the Cubs – $56 million over 4 years to deliver a yearly average of 17/79/.268. Walker delivers a similar 19/81/.272 though without as much positional versatility. Still, the $14 million average annual value given his 4 year younger age is probably a good starting point. The Mets did offer Curtis Granderson a 4 year deal when he was 33, so the 30 year old Walker would probably be within his rights to expect that duration to be on the table.
Assuming the Mets did go in this direction, you’d still have $14 million invested in Walker and $500K invested in Herrera. You have one more year of Asdrubal Cabrera at $8.25 million (and an $8.5 option or $2 million buyout in year 3). That’s insurance in case Gavin Cecchini goes the way of Reese Havens and others who couldn’t seem to stay on the field long enough to realize their talents.
However, there’s another elephant in the room by the name of Lucas Duda. A stress fracture in the back is what started Mr. Wright down his long, painful path. The positive here is that the team is not locked into a costly long-term contract. Duda would be facing arbitration next season and the team might opt to non-tender him rather than be on the hook for $8 million or more in salary for a guy who may or may not be able to play.
In case you need a scorecard, you potentially have $23 million of David Wright money and $8 million (arbitration estimate) of Lucas Duda money to address two corner infielder issues. If $14 million is going to go to Neil Walker to play 3rd base, then you have theoretically $17 million to address 1st base.
The problem is you also need to earmark some funds for your pitchers. Yes, Bartolo Colon may be heading to a big buffet elsewhere and you recoup his $7.5 million in salary, but Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom and Jeurys Familia need to be paid. They may keep the purse strings tight on Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz and Zack Wheeler for as long as possible.
Now the outfield also has the potential to get messy. Right now going into next season you have Michael Conforto for sure. Juan Lagares’ deal has his salary escalating rapidly each year for a bench player. In 2017 he’s slated to earn $4.5 million. Yes, Alejandro De Aza is producing less and costing more, but the Mets typically don’t fork over that much for the final 5-6 players on the bench. Curtis Granderson is having a rough start to his year, but the Mets are on the hook for 2017 as well to the tune of $15 million untradeable dollars.
Then there’s the weird 11th hour contract of Yoenis Cespedes which will pay him nearly $4 million less if he sticks around rather than opting out. Would another team offer him more than $23.75 million per year for 2017 and 2018? He’s only 30 years old, so it’s entirely possible he could negotiate a 4-5 year deal for himself. I don’t mean to depress anyone, but consider they could theoretically start 2017 without Cespedes, Wright and Duda. You think scoring runs is a struggle now? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Let’s play GM for a minute and figure out the next series of moves:
- Talk to Wright about how to exit the game gracefully a’la Don Mattingly
- Take the money you’d earmarked to pay Wright and extend Cespedes
- Consider packaging one of your pitchers (Matt Harvey, for example) to land a true slugging 1st baseman or outfielder (given Granderson’s age and final year remaining on his deal)
- Fill the 5th starter gap with some combination of Sean Gilmartin, Rafael Montero and/or Logan Verrett
- Talk to Neil Walker about becoming the new 3rd baseman
- Consider trading Bastardo and returning Josh Edgin to the majors to save some money
- Remember that Cespedes was an international free agent and see how that turned out. Don’t be gun shy about looking outside the borders for talent. It’s working for other clubs, why not the Mets?