Mets Dangerously Close To Needing A Rebuild
When Noah Syndergaard left the New York Mets to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, one of the talking points was the Mets are going to benefit from the draft pick acquired. The way things are going that may need to be their focus.
Syndergaard leaving is another big hit to the Mets already thin pitching depth. That’s problematic given all the question marks that rotation had even when Syndergaard was expected to be a Met in 2022. If this rotation falters, this is a team who is going to be given no choice but to rebuild.
Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco are coming off injury plagued years, and they are 33 and 34 respectively. With deGrom having an opt out after the 2022 season, they can both be free agents. Taijuan Walker can also be a free agent after the season. Walker had a great first half in 2021, but he faltered in the second half and would ultimately finish the season with a 90 ERA+.
As stands right now, the last two spots in the rotation would go to David Peterson and Tylor Megill. Peterson followed a poor 2020 from a peripheral stat perspective with poor 2021 stats and a season ending injury. He showed flashes, but ultimately, he looked like he was not ready. Megill burst onto the scene, but he tired quickly and fell apart at the end of the season, which is quite understandable.
Given the dearth of Triple-A pitching depth, the Mets need to sign two starters to allow Peterson and Megill to further develop and try to limit their innings a bit. Given where the prices are now, Marcus Stroman is going to need around a $25 million AAV to re-sign. Realistically speaking, it’s going to cost at least $40 million to fix the starting pitching.
Keep in mind, starting pitching is far from the Mets only problem. With Michael Conforto a free agent, and the Mets never getting a left fielder over the last three years, they need to fill-in two-thirds of their outfield. Left field could potentially be filled by Jeff McNeil, but the team needs to both hope they fill in two infield spots while also hoping McNeil rebounds from a nightmare 2021.
That is also before you consider Brandon Nimmo is going to be after the 2022 season. In reality, the Mets will have to figure out how to fill out an entire outfield over the course of two seasons. While McNeil may be the proverbial cheap choice, he is now an arbitration eligible player and will be more expensive. Thanks to Brodie Van Wagenen, the same goes for Pete Alonso.
While the Mets are figuring out how to pay two more starters, having to pay arbitration salaries to Alonso and McNeil, they will also have Robinson Cano‘s salary on the books. Unless Cano has a Jenrry Mejia situation, he is going to get $24 million in 2022 and 2023 ($3.75 will be paid by the Seattle Mariners).
Maybe Cano can take over second or third. Maybe he is a utility player. If the DH comes to the NL, he could be the DH. It’s also possible he’s just an overpaid pinch hitter or a player who will need to be released. In any event, that’s a lot of dead payroll weight when the team is potentially looking to re-sign Javier Baez to play alongside his friend Francisco Lindor. On Baez, he’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a $20 million AAV.
Before the Mets look to rebuild their bullpen with Jeurys Familia and Aaron Loup being free agents, or build depth with Jonathan Villar being a free agent, they will add at least $84 million to the payroll to add two starters, re-sign Baez, and do whatever they are going to do with Cano. Again, that is before building a bullpen and depth, and it is also before arbitration.
From a competitive balance tax threshold, the Mets payroll is $128.45 million before arbitration. Adding $84 million puts it at $212.45 million. According the MLB Trade Rumors model, the arbitration salaries could increase the payroll by an additional $49.4 million. That puts the Mets payroll at $261.85 million before they fill in their vacancies at second, third, left field, right field, the bench, and the bullpen.
That’s also before they figure out potential extensions for players like Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, and Nimmo. It’s also before they try to figure out a way to get deGrom to decline his opt out. The question is do the Mets really want to have a payroll around $300 million for the 2022 season? Based on what we saw in 2021, the answer is a clear no. However, we heard some rumors as to why the Mets didn’t go past the threshold.
Sure, with some creativity and shrewd moves, the Mets may not need to get to the $300 million threshold to compete in the NL East. Then again, this team is going to hire Billy Eppler as the GM. Taking a look at the complete picture, the Mets realistically have two options: (1) spend like no one has before; or (2) rebuild. Losing Syndergaard tilted it a little more towards rebuild, but it is still early in the offseason.