The Mets have about $20 million before reaching the salary cap. Save that money for the trade deadline nixing Springer for Bradley Jr. now.
The Mets packed a wallop yesterday on the National League when they literally stole Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians for a bag of peanuts, two faulted infielders, and two prospects who are just that – prospects!
It didn’t come without financial consequences, though. If Steve Cohen remains true to his mantra that the Mets will not exceed the salary cap threshold of $210 million in team payroll this year, then fiscal constraint becomes a necessity from here forward.
The Mets And Steve Cohen Are Not Without Choices
According to the always spot-on Spotrac, the Mets have about $24 million remaining on the team payroll for 2021 before reaching this year’s salary cap (call it what it is), whereupon Steve Cohen is subject to paying a luxury tax.
Cohen is unsure about the Mets crossing the threshold this year, but he has admitted that he sees a time when it may be necessary for the team to breach the limit.
Though much needed to fill the Mets hole in center field, George Springer will eat up a good portion of that $24 million if he is signed by the Mets, a pre-ordained move before yesterday.
All that was/is needed is for Springer to sign on the dotted line.
The possibility still exists the Mets will move forward to sign Springer, who is undoubtedly one of the elite centerfielders in the league, as a replacement for Brandon Nimmo, and when necessary, Michael Conforto to fill that position.
The Mets Can Take The Road Less Traveled
But if that happens, and assuming the Mets don’t dump salaries in future trades, there exists a wiser and very temporary solution to the team’s immediate need for 2021.
Sign Jackie Bradley Jr. in place of the more expensive Springer, saving in the process most of the $24 million for use as the season progresses, when other needs arise due, for example, to unforeseen injuries to key players.
Bradley is not George Springer, make no mistake about that.
At 30 years of age, however, Bradley Jr. can be expected to roam the vast expanses of the Citi Field outfield, catching everything that comes his way and occasionally making a run-saving catch another fielder should have handled.
Bradley Jr. has spent his entire eight-year career with the Boston Red Sox and has worked his way up to the modest $11 million he earned last year. He is among the list of free agents still unsigned this year.
Some will say he is Juan Lagares in disguise, but that is a misnomer as Bradley Jr. carries a better bat than Lagares, and he will fit well into the Mets nine-hole in the lineup, with a dash of power that can pick up any stragglers left on base.
With a lineup that now includes Lindor, Jeff McNeill, Pete Alonso, James McCann, and Michael Conforto already on deck and ready to repeat as one of the best offensive teams in the National League, Bradley Jr. fits in as a complement to these stars and one of those unheralded “extras” (think Justin Turner of the Dodgers) that makes the team go.
Mets And Cohen Looking Down The Road
If push comes to shove in early July and Steve Cohen is looking at a Mets team in second place, but in a clear view of the Braves, his instincts will be to tell his GM Jared Porter and Sandy Alderson to do “whatever it takes to get this thing done.”
Whereupon the Mets payroll will have reached a certain level that knocks on the door of a luxury tax this season.
The remaining spending will either be at or near zero if George Springer is on the team, or there will be a “surplus” of about $11 million left to spend in the budget with Bradley Jr. on board.
No one knows when the trade deadline will be in this year’s pandemic afflicted season.
Still, whenever it is, it is critical the Mets have some leeway in assuming a pro-rated portion of some All-Star’s salary, who has his butt, willingly or unwillingly, put on the block when his team realizes their season is lost.
The Mets want to be there when that happens.
The Class Of 2022 MLB Free Agents is wide and varied. Teams with little or no chance of making the 2021 playoffs will be entertaining the chance to trade players of whom they have little chance of retaining after the season.
For the Mets, absorbing the remaining portion of those players’ salaries depends on having the money “in the bank” to support trades of this kind.
Without that ability, it won’t be game over for the Mets, but at that point, it’s more than likely Steve Cohen will have no choice but to accede to paying a luxury tax at the end of the 2021 season – or fold his hand waiting for another day.
For Steve Cohen, Money Doesn’t Matter – But…
For Cohen, that’s not, of course, the end of the world. But it will represent a deviation from the intended plan for the Mets this year if he decides to blow through the gates of the salary cap.
Win a World Series because players X and Y were brought in to propel the team over the last hurdle at the end of the season – and surely – all is forgotten, and the New York Mets triumphantly parade down Broadway and the Canyon of Heroes.
Trouble is, of course, that’s a Yoenis Cespedes sized endeavor. Burned once, for the Mets it’s a risky game that’s played in baseball. And often, timing is everything.
Soon, we will hear of the behind the scenes steps in the negotiations between the Mets and the Indians that brought about what seems on paper to be the unlikeliest of trades.
It’s not so much the inclusion of Lindor in the trade as it is with the bonus addition of Carlos Carrasco. What’s up with that, and do the Indians know something the Mets do not?
These “things” are always about trades are always that which harkens the question – did someone get hoodwinked here?
More than likely, the Cleveland Indians are simply cleaning their house and moving on to another phase of their mid-market existence.
They’ve done it before, and like the Tampa Bay Rays dumping of Blake Snell for no other reason than he’s a drain on their payroll budget, it’s the cost of doing business at the major league level.
Looking up at the much-improved Chicago White Sox and the always ready to do battle Minnesota Twins in the AL Central Division, it’s not all that surprising to see the Indians erase the board at a time when the New York Mets happened to be in the right place as the benefactor of a team disposing of the past with a hopeful eye to the futire..
For The Mets – How Much Is Enough?
Moving back to the Mets, though, in theory, at least the current Mets 25-man roster can take the field on Opening Day with more than enough assurance they will make plenty of noise in the 2021 season.
We always want more as fans of a given team. Maybe, there will be more. But only a few days ago, I and others were knocking the Mets for being what appeared to be stuck in a quagmire of inaction, despite the lure of promising returns from the pockets of Cohen.
It’s not often we see this, but in one fell swoop, the Mets have succeeded in filling not one but two gaping holes on the roster.
Thus, it may be time to call off the dogs, moving away, for example, from the ever enticing lure of signing Trevor Bauer, and moving instead to a “let’s get ready for the season” mode, and one that brings Lindor and Carrasco fully into the Mets family.
Not to forget though, a time in which Jared Porter can keep looking for a player or two, whose names no one knows now, who will complement a Mets team when it’s fully molded.
This while Sandy Alderson breathes a sigh of relief, returning to his original task.
That is, supporting the need to restructure and strengthen the Mets farm system, as well as finding the personnel capable of bringing the team into the analytically savant 21st Century,
Plan A, which included an all-out effort to sign George Springer, now switches to Plan B following Francisco Lindor’s addition.
A step back is now for the Mets to take a deep breath and a time-out before moving forward. The pressure is off – would you not say so, Mets fans?