Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Here’s Part 2 of the look ahead to 2017. Fortunately this side of the equation – pitching – is far rosier than the outlook for the offense.
Noah Syndergaard pitched at an All Star level in 2016 and the Mets benefit from the fact he’s not even arbitration eligible until 2018. He will be one of the best bargains in all of MLB.
Steve Matz has had an up and down season, some of it related to issues that may or may not be resolved surgically in the off-season. However, his performance exceeds that of Zack Wheeler during his 2014 campaign and he is not arbitration eligible until 2019.
Although he’s been pitching at an elite level since entering the league, Jacob de Grom earned just over minimum in 2016 and is not arbitration eligible until 2018 either. The team may be wise to recognize his performance as they did Matt Harvey’s a year earlier. It would help pave the way into perhaps buying out his free agent years with a contract extension.
In looking at the contract statuses for the various pitchers I was surprised to find out that Zack Wheeler is arbitration eligible in 2017. Considering he has not pitched since being shut down in 2014, he’s not likely to get a huge bump in pay, but an increase will most definitely have to be budgeted.
Perhaps the most vexing of the pitchers from a financial standpoint will be the aforementioned Matt Harvey who earned $4.3 million for his sub par and injury shortened 2016 campaign. He is arbitration eligible and it seems no matter how poorly someone performs a major salary increase is always a virtual certainty. I’m thinking he’s end up somewhere in the $6.5 million range.
In summary, your starting rotation (if it can actually be on the field together at one time) will probably cost somewhere in the vicinity of $14-$15 million. Considering many individual pitchers earn more than that, the beancounters the Mets employee have to be doing cartwheels.
There are two more pitchers that merit consideration, however, that could quickly turn this bargain basement staff into a much more expensive one. First comes big Bartolo Colon. He was an All Star again at age 43 and at times was even more dominant than he’s been during his first two years in a Mets uniform. This year he’s earning $7.25 million and he’s been worth every penny. Given the fragile state of health at times this season for every pitcher not named de Grom, it might be prudent to plan on a capable fallback position should injuries happen once again. Signing him as a long man/spot starter would probably cost about the same money once again.
The reacquisition of Jon Niese was a classic bad contract for bad contract kind of deal. The Mets can get out from under it by simply exercising the $500K buyout of his option for 2017. Keeping him would cost $10 million and I think if you polled the fans, baseball executives or pretty much anyone with a pulse, given the choice of Colon or Niese, well, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Lefty.
Of course, the team in the past has been loath to plan for contingencies, thinking instead that injuries never happen and you can always muddle through with people from the minors. How did that great Logan Verrett strategy work out fer ya?
There are some other choices who could provide innings in a pinch. Newcomers Gabriel Ynoa and Seth Lugo both logged much of their careers as starters. Sean Gilmartin was always a starter until his Rule V success story in the majors last year out of the pen. Then there’s the reborn Rafael Montero with a 1.99 ERA in AA who might very well never want to set foot in the pitching hell of Las Vegas ever again. These choices are dice rolls whereas a veteran like Colon is more of a sure thing, but spending for a sure thing is not normally in the Mets’ collective DNA when it comes to planning for what might go wrong.
Here’s where it’s going to get expensive in 2017. Closer Jeurys Familia got a huge bump from the minimum wage range to $4.1 million for 2016. He’s certainly earned it with a record setting saves streak and until very recently almost unhittable stuff. He’s arbitration eligible and expect a pretty big bump – probably to $7.5 million.
Next come the minimum wage guys like Hansel Robles and Erik Goeddel, both arbitration eligible in 2018. You’d have to figure they’re both pretty much locks for a spot in the pen.
Josh Edgin has only recently made it back to the majors and perhaps as the team falls further out of contention he’ll get more opportunities. Then again, evaluating talent is something that the Skipper has not quite understood during his tenure. He sticks to what he thinks he knows, come hell or high water. The reason he might want to look at Edgin is that he pitched to a sub 2.00 ERA before his injury and he’s just arbitration eligible for the first time in 2017. Given the small number of innings on his resume, he’s not going to get a big increase. This fact becomes doubly important when you consider that Jerry Blevins is having an excellent year at a $4 million salary already, but is also a free agent.
The other big money guy to worry about in the pen is 8th inning specialist Addison Reed. He’s been sensational all year and already earns $5.3 million and is arbitration eligible. Would the short sighted and usually penny-wise and pound-foolish Mets let him walk? If not, you’re probably looking at about $6.5 million for a setup guy.
For awhile the great Jim Henderson experiment seemed to be something of a success, but the arm injuries that derailed his career have once again stopped him from being a productive member of the club. He’s arbitration eligible but probably wouldn’t warrant much.
Tom Brennan has been extolling the virtues of a couple of minor league hurlers – Paul Sewald and Josh Smoker. Both are big strikeout guys are having success in a very difficult environment. They are options should they decide to let any of the more expensive alternatives walk away.
Assuming they try to keep the current pen more-or-less intact, you’re looking at a payroll of $22 million not including what you might pay for a guy like Bartolo Colon as insurance.