With the settlement of the arbitration hearing for Wilmer Flores and the recent returns of both Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, it appears that the NY Mets opening day payroll will slightly eclipse the $150 million mark making it the highest ever in the history of their ballclub. For people criticizing them for spending like a small market team, that $150 million payroll is actually 12th in the league, well behind the $223 million of the Dodgers, but triple the $50 million of the Brewers.
What probably allows the Wilpons to sleep at night is the knowledge that this relatively lofty payroll position is most definitely a temporary phenomenon. When the 2017 season ends, an awful lot of payroll comes off the books should the Mets choose not to renegotiate with several players. Consider these dollars (in millions):
17.2 Walker -- can't see that they would keep him
15 Granderson -- in the words of J. Peterman to Elaine Benes, thank you for a job...done
13 Bruce -- a poor year and he's gone. A monster year and he's off to land a big contract
7.75 Reed -- the one worth pursuing
7.25 Duda -- A lot depends on what Dom Smith does in the minors this year and his own health
There’s over $55 million departing right there. In addition, you have Jose Reyes and Fernando Salas playing on one year deals, though their cost is rather insignificant. There’s an $8.5 million option on Asdrubal Cabrera for 2018 and at less than half the cost of Neil Walker it seems pretty obvious they would retain him.
The only other player who would seem to be at risk of leaving for financial reasons is Juan Lagares. He’s set to earn $6.5 million in 2018 and then jumps to $9 million in 2019 with a $9.5 million option for 2020 ($500K buyout). For someone who has devolved from Gold Glove starting center fielder to role player, that may be deemed too rich for their blood and he could wind up playing elsewhere.
The starting rotation is not yet eligible for free agency, so it’s possible that all will return at whatever rate an arbiter thinks is equitable. I’m sure Wilmer Flores’ small victory will be inspiring some of the players to go that route, particularly when they’re not going to hit free agency for some time yet such as Jacob de Grom who is not a free agent until 2021.
Jeurys Familia is once again under team control and the Mets do have an option on Jerry Blevins for 2018. The tricky one is going to be Addison Reed who will likely be called upon to play closer in the early part of the year which will help his cause when he goes looking on the open market for work come 2018.
The pickings are somewhat slim for bolstering the offense. Jonathan Lucroy would seem to be the first target for the Mets to consider if Travis d’Arnaud has another disappointing year. J.D. Martinez is an interesting option as well, though he’s not a centerfielder. If Wright is forced to retire then Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas become options as well.
Tony Watson and Jake McGee are a couple of quality lefty relievers. After Reed you have Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson and Steve Cishek from the right side that look promising, too.
It may be that a strong year from Robert Gsellman and health from Zach Wheeler could put Matt Harvey into play as part of a deal to bring back either young talent or an established star in a position of need.
Play GM. If you have $55 million leaving, what would you do? How would your answer change if the elephant in the room chooses retirement after another year struggling with his health?