The Mets have a host of players who are arbitration-eligible for the 2020 season. Here’s a run-down on those players and what we can expect in $$ terms…
The Mets, though you might find it hard to believe, have more on their plate besides selecting a new manager for the 2020 season. Soon, they will, or they won’t make a qualifying offer (around $18.5 million) to Zack Wheeler. Wheeler will then have ten days to accept the offer, or he can opt to enter the free-agent market.
But that’s an easy one – a yes or a no from the Mets answers the question. It’s when we get to the players eligible for arbitration that things get cloudy, and even nasty at times. So, what we’ll do is take each of those players with an eye toward predicting how the process will turn out.
There will be winners and losers, with debate to follow. Here we go.
Juan Lagares, Mets Outfielder
Technically, Juan Lagares has completed the arbitration process and is eligible for free agency. Lagares earned $9 million in 2019 as a part-time player. Due for a raise based solely on service time in the major leagues, the Mets are not likely to initially pursue Lagares.
it is a far stretch to think the Mets will include Lagares in their plans for 2020. They will, however, wait to see how Lagares fairs on the open market with the potential of signing him at a home-town discounted rate.
Noah Syndergaard, Starting Pitcher
Noah Syndergaard‘s second year of arbitration in 2019 earned him a raise to $6 million. In this, his final year of arbitration, he will be looking for more from the Mets. With 210 Starting pitchers ahead of him on the salary totem pole for starting pitchers, he spells nothing but trouble for the Mets in the arbitration process.
If nothing else, Syndergaard gave the Mets innings last year. As he always does, he showed signs of brilliance followed by unexplainable digressions.
His agent will present a case for Syndergaard drawing a minimum of $8 million, and up to a doubling of his salary to $12 million after he has tested the waters a bit.
This has all the characteristics of a battle developing between Brodie Van Wagenen and Syndergaard that could force the end of Thor’s time with the Mets, with the Mets throwing up their hands in frustration by offering Syndergaard in the trade market.
Michael Conforto, Mets Outfielder
Michael Conforto is entering his second of three arbitration years with the Mets. He will not be denied what he has earned. Conforto’s salary for 2019 was $4,025,000, a pittance compared to what he will command for the 2020 season.
Unlike Syndergaard, though, Michael Conforto appears to be a company man of sorts, and he has openly declared his desire to finish his career with the Mets. His breakout season in 2019 only served to augment and highlight his value to the team.
According to Spotrac, twelve Mets ranked ahead of Michael Conforto in salaries paid for 2019. That is untenable for the Mets in 2020, making Conforto due for a healthy raise to $7-8 million. A fan favorite, the Mets cannot afford to rock the boat on this one.
Steven Matz, Starting Pitcher
Most will agree that Steven Matz had a coming-out year with the Mets in 2019. With much still to learn and improve on, Matz demonstrated a move forward, especially after the team acquired Marcus Stroman, which served as a reuniting of boyhood friends and competitors in Long Island baseball leagues.
Matz’s salary for 2019 represented a mere 1.64% (Spotrac) of the Mets Total payroll at $2.625,000. Thirteen Mets made more than Matz in 2019.
Short of a trade involving Matz, that is always a possibility, the Mets figure to be accountable for a raise to $5 million. Interestingly though, we’ll need to see what Matz and his team come in with when they present their figure.
Remember, in all arbitration cases; it’s an either/or decision by the judge. Despite the leap forward by Matz in 2019, he’s still on the wrong side in the negotiations until he can prove himself as a consistent part of the Met’s rotation.
Joe Panik, Second Baseman, Reserve Infielder
Joe Panik is a compelling case for the Mets. As a late arrival to the team when the San Francisco Giants released him, Panik came to the Mets on a wavier deal that cost the organization only $152,184.
Panik filled in admirably at second base for the Mets until Robinson Cano has his epiphany moment declaring himself fit and ready to play.
Technically, Panik starts at the bottom with the major league minimum (roughly $555,000) in the arbitration process. But the reality is Panik can take his services to the open market if the Mets shun him to make much more.
Panik is not looking to make a kill as his family lives only 60 miles from Citi Field. Therefore it behooves the Mets to make him a fair offer, even if it’s only insurance against the ever-aging Cano.
Seth Lugo, Mets Reliever/Closer
Seth Lugo is a no-brainer from where the Mets sit with their underachieving bullpen. Lugo cast himself in a position where he can rob City Hall if he chooses based on his value to the team in 2019.
Lugo’s salary for 2019 was just under $600,000. Do the Mets low-ball Lugo with an offer, for instance, that doubles his salary for 2020, making hay of the fact that’s twice what the man was paid last year?
Or, on the other side, does Lugo come in asking for $5 million, a sum arguably he might be entitled to?
This one, like that of Syndergaard, has all the earmarks of a collision between the two sides. We’ll know more when we see what each side comes in with. The Mets have a bullet in their arsenal Lugo cannot deny, though.
Relievers from year-to-year are unreliable and, therefore, unpredictable. And given the amount of work the Mets bestowed on Lugo in 2019, he might consider backing off a bit to see what he has left in the tank in 2020. As I said, very interesting.
Brandon Nimmo, Outfielder
No one, save for Pete Alonso, is more beloved by Mets fans than Brandon Nimmo. As the scrappy overachieving player, Nimmo gives all of us the feeling that with a break or two, we could have played this game too.
But Brandon Nimmo is what he is, which means that given his propensity for injuries, the $600,000 he earned last year could be a plateau as he looks to 2020.
The Mets will do well to make Nimmo a millionaire, and they’ll likely do that. But Brandon Nimmo has miles to go before he is entrenched in the future of the team, despite his effusive and endearing love for the game.
Robert Gsellman, Mets Reliever
Robert Gsellman has a year he’d probably like to forget. Injured, his contributions to the team when they needed him most were negligible.
Still, given the Mets bullpen for what it is, Gsellman remains (potentially) a valuable piece to the team. His salary last year amounted to $582,500. The Mets can and should make Gsellman a millionaire, but nothing more than that.
Joining the likes of Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman has the weight of proving his value to the team on him. Today, there are hundreds of Gsellman’s pitching in the major leagues. Prove your value and cash in next year.
These are offered only as snapshots of each player from the outside looking into the fishbowl. You may agree or not concerning the evaluations I have set forth. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged.