Just look at the names: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and now Dellin Betances. That is a list of names which is the envy of each and every Major League team, and when you break it down, it has the makings of being an all-time great bullpen.
In 2018, Diaz was as dominant as we have seen any closer be. In 73 appearances, he recorded a Major League leading 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and a 15.2 K/9.
Familia is the best right-handed closer in Mets history. From 2015 – 2016, he was second in the Majors in saves while having the third most innings pitched and ninth best ERA.
Lugo has been as dominant a reliever as the Mets have ever had, and really he has emerged to be as dominant as any reliever in the game. To put it in perspective of just how dominant and overlooked he has been, over the past two years, he has a better FIP while throwing more innings than two time All-Star Josh Hader.
As great as this group is, you can argue none of them are anywhere near as good as Betances has been. From 2014-2018, he was quite possibly the best reliever in all of baseball. In fact, his 11.2 fWAR was second best. He was best in innings pitched, third in K/9, fourth in fWAR, and fifth in appearances.
When you can line-up this level of relievers in a row, you’re making every game a 5-6 inning game for a starting staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That is not only a recipe for success, it is a recipe for pure dominance.
However, it is important to note next year is 2020, and based on the last few years, only Lugo has been pitching at this high a level.
Last year, Diaz had a career worst year. After the offseason, he talked about how he struggled handling New York, and as reported by Laura Albanese of Newsday, the Mets finally admitted he had been dealing with some health issues.
Familia also had a career worst year. With his having an arterial clot removed in 2017 and his dealing with shoulder issues again last year, you wonder if he can ever get back to the pitcher he was in 2018 (3.13 ERA) let alone his dominant form of 2014 – 2016.
Finally, there is Betances. Before partially tearing his Achilles last year, Betances had been shut down at the beginning of the 2019 season due to a bone spur issue in his shoulder, inflammation in the joint, and a strain to his his right latissimus dorsi muscle. When he finally came back, he had lost velocity on his pitches.
That was also before partially tearing his Achillies. The good news on that front is it did not require surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. The downside is no one can quite be sure what type of pitcher he will be in 2020.
Long story, short, this all means Jeremy Hefner has his work cut out for him. He has been handed an incredibly gifted bullpen which needs a lot of help getting back to their respective levels of dominance. If he is able to get this group at or near their apex, this Mets bullpen will be the best in the game, and when you factor in the talent and potential of relievers like Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, you could have an all-time great bullpen.
On the other hand, it is difficult to coach away injuries and diminution in stuff. To that end, no one can be quite sure how this bullpen will perform. As such, this “boom or bust” bullpen will be one of the key reasons why the Mets succeed or fail in 2020.
One of the best parts of the Mets organization this past decade was how they drafted. In fact, the only first round draft picks to not make the majors were in the past three years, and all three of those players appear on their way to be Major Leaguers.
It’s difficult picking out who was the best pick.
Matt Harvey started the 2013 All-Star Game and had big starts in the 2015 postseason. Brandon Nimmo has a career .387 OBP, and he was the second best hitter in the National League in 2018. Michael Fulmer won a Rookie of the Year and was an All-Star. There’s also Jarred Kelenic who has quickly made his way through top 100 rankings.
Keep in mind, these are some of the impressive draft picks who didn’t make the top five. Here are those who did:
5. Pete Alonso
In one year, Alonso set the all-time rookie home run record and the Mets single season record. He’d be the first Mets position player named an All-Star in his rookie season, and he’d win the Home Run Derby.
Alonso was more than just the outlandish numbers. He emerged as a young leader. He responded to MLB’s absurd First Responder caps by getting cleats for the entire team.
More than being a great player, he is someone who truly gets it. The fact he was a second round pick makes him an absolute steal of a pick.
4. Seth Lugo
No, Lugo is not the best player on this list, but it’s important to remember he was just a 34th round draft pick.
Players picked in that round are not expected to make it to the majors let alone have a significant impact at the Major League level.
In 2016, he helped save the season pitching to 2.67 ERA as a reliever and starter helping the Mets reach consecutive postseason for the second time in team history.
Over the past two years, he’s emerged as arguably the biggest bullpen weapon in the game. For instance, he was the only reliever last year to finish in the top four in the league in innings pitched and FIP.
3. Jeff McNeil
On top of that, his 141 wRC+ since his MLB debut is 13th best in the sport. It’s one of the reasons he was an All-Star this year.
When you get a player who is a good defender at multiple positions and is one of the better hitters in the sport with a first round pick, you’re thrilled. Getting that from your 12th round pick in the 2013 draft is the stuff of legends.
Very rarely is a player ready for the Majors one year after being drafted, but Conforto isn’t most players.
Conforto was a godsend in 2015 providing an offensively starved team with a potent bat. More than that, in the 2015 World Series, he was actually led all players in OPS. That was highlighted by his hitting two homers in Game Four.
While he had some injury issues, he’d be a 2017 All-Star, and he’s now all the way back from his shoulder injury. His value goes beyond his bat as he has played all three outfield positions to help the team with their needs.
So far, he has the ninth best wRC+ among Mets with at least 500 games played. He’s top 20 in WAR among position players, and he’s on the cusp of the top 10 in a number of categories including homers.
So far, he’s been a key figure in a pennant winning team, and he’s already a top 10 offensive player. That’s all before he’s reached his prime.
1. Jacob deGrom
Not only has deGrom emerged as a top three pitcher in Mets history, but with him being drafted in the ninth round of the 2009 draft, he’s not only the top draft pick of the decade, he’s also the best draft pick the Mets organization has ever made.
‘Twas five years before Cohen, when all through the Citi
Not a dollar was whirling, not even a fifty.
The equipment was hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes a free agent soon would be there.
Jeff was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of insurance savings danced in his head.
And Fred in his ‘kerchief, and Saul in his cap,
Began preparing for when they took that one final nap.
When out on the news wire there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Away to Twitter I flew like a flash,
Sifted through the notification and ignored the trash.
A new moon on the New York baseball shown
The chance of the Wilpons money no longer be sown.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Steve Cohen, and some reason to cheer.
With a new owner, so wealthy and smart,
I knew in a moment the Wilpons ways will part.
More rapid than eagles the hope sure came,
Mets whistled, and shouted, and called extensions by name!
As quality free agents sign and poor excuses once fly,
Finances no longer an obstacle, debt reaching the sky.
So among the fanbase optimism grew,
Jeff Wilpon soon to be gone, and Van Wagenen too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard through the wall
The prancing and pawing of agents who now call.
As the Mets try to get ahead, and turn things around,
Soon gone are the Wilpons ways which always confound.
Cohen was dressed all in Mets gear, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes not tarnished with Brooklyn Dodgers adorations afoot.
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a legitimate owner, hanging over a stack.
Our eyes—how they twinkled! our moods how merry!
A leader like Moses, and nothing like Terry!
Boras’ droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the green in his eyes from money now aflow
The stump of a pencil Cohen held tight in his teeth,
Writing to Jeff that only in title he will be chief.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
Which hungered to see a Mets winner playing on his telly!
He loved his art, some displayed on a shelf,
One piece alone worth more than all of Fred’s wealth
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
In five years Cohen will leave experts to their work,
Suddenly we won’t see micromanaging from some little jerk.
Injured players no longer needing to ignore doctors they chose,
Now healthy teams playing Mets foes!
He sprang to the bank, to his team gave a whistle,
As homers and fastballs firing faster than a missle.
But I heard him exclaim causing a lot of mayhem,
“Happy Christmas to all, and all a L-F-G-M!”
For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.
While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.
Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.
We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.
After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.
After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.
Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.
If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.
This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.
Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.
No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.
Look, when you have a trade with the framework of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn blow up in your face while getting absolutely nothing of value from free agent signings like Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, and you are still cheered at a Mets game, chances are you believe you are Teflon.
Better yet, you probably believe no matter what you do people will buy whatever you are saying. We’re seeing the effects of that.
Despite Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman appearing in the same rotation last year, Van Wagenen is selling Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler in the rotation. Despite touting a rotation of four aces with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Wheeler last year, now with the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, Van Wagenen is selling the Mets having six starters who are number four or better.
Worse yet, Van Wagenen is now touting the Mets rotation as the deepest in the game. That is despite the fact Wacha has shoulder problems and isn’t really a Major League caliber starting pitcher right now. Porcello has value, and may be in line for a rebound, but he is really no more than a fifth starter. Regardless, overselling this rotation which is clearly worse than the 2019 rotation is evidence of how little Van Wagenen thinks of everyone’s intellect.
It gets worse.
Despite not adding any relievers to the bullpen, Van Wagenen is touting how he improved the bullpen. He has done that by claiming the team has added Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. If you think you are taking crazy pills or have amnesia, you don’t. Both Lugo and Gsellman were in the bullpen last year. Same goes for Brad Brach.
Saying the Mets have addressed the bullpen by adding Lugo and Gsellman is like saying the Mets have improved the lineup by not trading Brandon Nimmo this offseason, or by having Jeff McNeil in it after his late season injury. Fact is, keeping the same players doesn’t upgrade anything. It is treading water, but Van Wagenen doesn’t think anyone is intelligent enough to discover that.
Believe it or not, it gets better. Van Wagenen actually had the temerity to say this, “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something.”
That’s right. Fifteen months into his tenure as the Mets General Manager, he is boldly saying that now he is only looking to make good baseball deals instead of making moves for their own sake.
Seeing his affinity for his former clients like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, you’re now free to draw your own conclusions about whether they were good baseball deals, or whether there was a compulsion to something. Really, you can make that about any decision made prior to his next one.
Based on his history, it’ll be a bad one, he’ll think we’re all stupid as evidenced by his nonsense explanation, and we’ll just be sitting around waiting for the Steve Cohen Era to truly begin.
When you’re operating on an austerity budget like the Mets are, you can’t afford to just throw away or gamble with their money. Cheap for its own sake is not going to fly. No, the team needs to be shrewd and deliberate.
Signing Michael Wacha was neither of those things.
Many will note it’s just $3 million guaranteed, but that loses the point. As noted by Tim Britton of The Athletic, Wacha can earn an additional $7 million in incentives. As such, with the way the Mets operate their team, for budget purposes, they’re likely going to treat Wacha as a $10 million player leaving them with only $3 million to spend this offseason.
That’s $3 million to build a bullpen, add depth, and get insurance for Wacha’s spot in the rotation. They need that insurance because Wacha missed the postseason with a shoulder injury. It was the second time in four years his season ended due to a shoulder injury.
The shoulder issues are just part of the problem. The larger problem is Wacha shouldn’t be relied upon on as a team’s fifth starter. He’s not striking many out, and when you dig deeper, he has an unacceptably poor 1.97 K/BB.
Turning the attention to Baseball Savant, Wacha doesn’t have Major League quality stuff anymore. His fastball velocity and spin are poor. The spin on his curve is poor as well.
About the only pitch he really effectively executes is his change. To the effect, it’s been quite effective with batters only hitting .199 off of it. The problem is batters hit all of his other pitches well.
The end result was Wacha making 24 starts and five relief appearances going 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA, 1.563 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and a 7.4 K/9. Notably, over his last 10 starts of the season, Wacha only lasted five innings three times, and he didn’t pitch at least four innings three times. Due to his shoulder injuries, he would also be left off the postseason roster.
Overall, Wacha between his injuries, stuff, and really, just his ability was not deserving of anything more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Wacha was the guy who needed to prove he could be healthy. For that matter, he needed to prove he was a Major League caliber starting pitcher again.
Instead, Brodie Van Wagenen gave the CAA client a guaranteed deal worth $3 million with the potential of an additional $7 million in incentives. This makes little sense for an injured pitcher with little to no upside, and that is before you consider how he’d be negatively impacted by the Mets defense or Wilson Ramos behind the plate.
At the moment, Wacha is in a boat with Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as all three are preparing to be starters with them each likely being in the bullpen to start the year. That was made all the more certain with Rick Porcello signing, which as previously explained, is not set-up for success with the Mets.
Right now, there are so many possibilities including these two signings paving the way for a trade of Noah Syndergaard or another starter. No matter what, the Mets appear to be relying upon Wacha in some fashion for 2020. Given his injuries and where his talent is now, this is really just a waste of money.
This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.
Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.
With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.
The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.
It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.
In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.
Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.
Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.
With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.
At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.
In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.
However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.
In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.
All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.
That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.
Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.
Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.
That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.
As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.
When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.
This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.
Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.
Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.
Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.
When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.
In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.
Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.
The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.
The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.
But . . .
Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.
In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.
Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.
In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.
Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.
The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.
That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.
In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.
Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.
While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.