Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Since the $17.2 million shoe has dropped people are tripping all over themselves to figure out the Mets payroll and how that move might impact the Yoenis Cespedes negotiations (as well as filling other needs such as additional bullpen arms). The consensus seems to be that the club is right now around $124-$126 million including Walker and excluding Cespedes. If you presume that the payroll will not exceed the $160 million threshold you have about $35 million or so to address said needs.
Let’s assume for the moment that the starting rotation is what everyone hopes it will be – Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steve Matz and Zack Wheeler. That would leave Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman either in the bullpen or AAA.
The bullpen should include Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker and Josh Edgin. After that it gets quite murky. With no Jeurys Familia (assuming a suspension), no Jerry Blevins, no Fernando Salas and no Jim Henderson there would appear to be ample room for Mssrs. Lugo and Gsellman with either Paul Sewald or an external acquisition forming the 7th member of the pen.
For now the outfield is a crowded mess – Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Juan Lagares are there for sure. Had the team fulfilled its promise of having Jose Reyes work some in the outfield, he would be there as well. However, he’s had no time to learn the position so that likely means a guy like Brandon Nimmo may be the 5th outfielder (for now). If by some miracle they work out a deal for Cespedes, it goes from crowded to sardine can.
The infield includes Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright. Throw in some combination of Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and TJ Rivera for backup. Given that Reyes and Rivera both earn minimum wage, guess who’s likely the odd man out to be bundled off in a trade?
Catching for now is the same mess it was last year with Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera handling the duties with Kevin Plawecki likely slated for another stay in AAA.
Adding a big right handed bat of some kind – Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion – would necessitate clearing the logjam of infielders and outfielders. Obviously the desire would be to move one of Bruce or Granderson. Most are ready to run Bruce out of town based upon his poor showing last year, but does anyone remember Granderson’s first year in a Mets uniform? He hit 20 HRs, drove in 66 and batted a robust .227 in over 650 plate appearances. Bruce last year after his horrific start ended his Mets tenure with 8 HRs, 19 RBIs and a .219 average over just 187 PAs. The point is he was on pace to do about the same. The difference is that Bruce is 29 and Granderson is 35. If it’s me, I deal Granderson and keep the slightly cheaper Bruce and see how he fares now that he’s gotten some time to adjust.
With Bartolo Colon’s departure, it removes from most conversations the likelihood they would trade any of their starting pitching (including Lugo and Gsellman). That leaves the aforementioned outfielder trade and Wilmer Flores as possibilities, as well as various minor league entities such as Gavin Cecchini. In other words, the pile o’chips is mighty low.
Right now it seems every move hinges on Yoenis Cespedes (and, to a lesser extent, David Wright). Between them they account for nearly $50 million of the payroll. They should already be assuming Wright is a sunk cost. However, if they fail to land Cespedes, I would expect to see them make a run at Jose Bautista who would not command as long a contract as the others on the market given his poor showing in 2016 and his age. After all, Sandy Alderson operates on the principle of payroll flexibility, not necessarily on doing what it takes to win the division. You also have to figure they’re going to get some retread for the bullpen as Addison Reed assumes closer duties. That will cost money as well.