The Mets, no matter who is hired to run baseball operations — and regardless of whether that person comes from within or is an external hire — are in the midst of an offseason that will very likely include lots of spending on players.
Before Steve Cohen‘s first season as owner, he set the expectation that the Mets would not spend like drunken sailors in Year 1, with New York instead pouncing on certain situations that were deemed appropriate — such as the massive extension handed out to Francisco Lindor after he was acquired via trade.
The Mets were more cautious overall, though, refusing to outbid the Toronto Blue Jays for George Springer or splurge for other big-ticket free agents.
While the Mets might not spend blindly this offseason, the expectation is that they will spend a lot as they reshape the roster with an eye on contending right away.
And with a considerable amount of money already committed to the payroll for 2022, the Mets will almost certainly have to exceed the luxury tax this offseason (much more on that below).
Let’s break down the payroll situation for 2022 and beyond…
SALARY ALREADY COMMITTED FOR 2022
As things currently stand, the Mets have a shade under $118 million committed to the payroll for the 2022 season that will count toward the CBT (competitive balance tax), per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
That $118 million figure does not include projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players, many of whom are in line for large raises.
It also doesn’t take into account the estimated $16 million in player benefits and $2.25 million that will be owed to 40-man roster players in the minors that Cot’s figures in.
If you factor in those figures, that $118 million number rises to $136.25 million.
WHAT ARE THE ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS PROJECTED TO MAKE?
The 16 players are Pete Alonso, Miguel Castro, J.D. Davis, Edwin Diaz, Robert Gsellman, Luis Guillorme, Joey Lucchesi, Seth Lugo, Jose Martinez, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Tomas Nido, Jose Peraza, Dominic Smith, Drew Smith, and Trevor Williams.
It’s fair to believe that contracts will be tendered to most of the above players, with Gsellman, Martinez, Peraza, and Williams perhaps the non-tender candidates.
And if the Mets tender contracts to Alonso, Castro, Davis, Diaz, Guillorme, Lucchesi, Lugo, McNeil, Nimmo, Nido, Dominic Smith, and Drew Smith it will add roughly $43.6 million to the payroll, bringing it to around $180 million.
Granted, the Mets could and likely will trade some of the players who are offered arbitration — with Davis and Dominic Smith among the trade candidates — but that won’t move the needle much when it comes to payroll relief.
THE POTENTIAL QUALIFYING OFFER IMPACT
With Syndergaard’s return from Tommy John surgery being delayed in 2021 and his making only two appearances all season (while not throwing his slider or curve), will the Mets feel comfortable committing $18.4 million to him?
Either way, the Mets — who have serious starting rotation concerns — need to find a way to keep Syndergaard.
In the event the Mets make qualifying offers to Conforto and Syndergaard and both of them accept, it would add $36.8 million to the payroll, likely increasing the total number committed to the payroll to roughly $217 million, which would be beyond the $210 million threshold the luxury tax was at in 2021 (with the CBA set to expire on Dec. 1, it’s unclear what the luxury tax threshold will be in 2022).
Syndergaard would probably accept if the QO was extended, while it seems likely Conforto would reject it. But Conforto would then be a candidate to return on a longer deal.
HOW MUCH ROOM IS THERE TO ADD MORE PLAYERS THIS OFFSEASON?
To put it simply, there needs to be a lot of room, regardless of how much money might already be committed. And the Mets need to not only exceed the luxury tax threshold, but go well past it.
In addition to the players under control, the arbitration-eligible players, and those who could come back on qualifying offers are players the Mets should be attempting to re-sign — including Javier Baez, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Loup.
And no matter what happens with Conforto and Syndergaard, the Mets will be very close to the threshold (or perhaps above it) before they even add external free agents or players via trade.
In other words, for the Mets to build the team the right way for 2022 while pursuing free agents such as Kris Bryant and Starling Marte, and/or going after trade candidates who are relatively expensive, they will need to raise the payroll substantially.
Cohen is on the record as being willing to exceed the tax, and the perfect storm really is forming now for the Mets to do it.
And their goal should be to get back under it within three years.
WHAT ABOUT EXTENSIONS FOR UNDER-CONTROL PLAYERS?
In addition to potentially extending qualifying offers, retaining lots of their arbitration-eligible players, and adding players via free agency and/or trades, the Mets should also be exploring potential extensions for some of their core pieces.
That should include Alonso (who has three more seasons of arbitration), Diaz (who is set for free agency after 2022), and Nimmo (who is also set for free agency after 2022).
If the Mets extend any of their own players, they can’t lessen the impact on the luxury tax by backloading deals since the tax is calculated using the average annual value of a contract.
THE PAYROLL SITUATION IN 2023 AND BEYOND
While the Mets already have a lot committed to the payroll for 2022 and will likely need to exceed the luxury tax, the payroll situation gets much better in 2023 and beyond — for a few reasons.
The first reason is that their salary commitments are about to drop — and that drop will be substantial by 2024, due in part to the expiration of Cano’s contract.
At the moment, the Mets have $97.69 million committed to the payroll for 2023. That will go up with arbitration raises and when factoring in any players they sign/trade for/extend.
For 2024, the Mets have only $44.25 million committed to the payroll before arbitration raises. That does not include deGrom, who has an opt out. And one would think that he’s likely to remain a Met, whether it’s by opting in or working out an extension — health-dependent, of course.
What will also help the Mets get back under the luxury tax sooner rather than later if they exceed it is the expected influx of top prospects, whose salaries will be relatively inexpensive during the early part of their big league careers.
Those prospects include Brett Baty and Mark Vientos (who could debut in 2022), Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, and J.T. Ginn (who could all debut in 2023), and Matt Allan (who could debut in 2024).
Source: Yahoo Sports