The Mets need breathing room on payroll to prepare for July trade deadline

Snow-bound Citi Field NYC 12/3/2019 (Photo: nj.com)
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The Mets have completed nearly all of their offseason shopping. There’s always want for more, but the payroll says otherwise. Come July that can change…

The Mets will field a team on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals that is improved over last year. By how much, no one can say. But surely by mid-July, the Mets will have a clear picture of which players are measuring up and those who aren’t.

So, with an eye toward the trade deadline, the only opportunity for fixes with waivers no longer in play, the Mets need to ensure they’ll be ready when the time comes.

Ready, in this case, means having the payroll flexibility make overtures to the attractive but expensive players who come on the market from teams throwing in the towel on their season.

Referencing the table below (link here for a better read), the Mets are okay – but not good.

You’ll note the luxury tax threshold of $208 million, and following down; you see the current Mets tax eligible payroll of $197.5 million. The critical mass number, though, is the bottom line showing tax space at only $10.5 million.

Mets 2020 Payroll Benchmarks (Source: Spotrac)

Ideally, the Mets should want more flexibility than $10 million. Consider that the Mets have nine players heading into arbitration where raises are liberally handed out and that $10 million can disappear overnight.

Each has been extended a contract by the Mets for an undisclosed amount, but it’s up to the player to decide if he accepts the offer or opts for arbitration.

Thus, if the Mets want to be a team in play come July, the kitty needs to grow, and here’s why.

In July, The Mets Will Need To Pay To Play

It’s looking more and more like the top two trade pieces of the offseason will remain with their respective teams, at least for now.

Francisco Lindor - Mets shortstop? (Photo: letsgotribe.com)
Francisco Lindor – Mets shortstop? (Photo: letsgotribe.com)

The Red Sox do not like the offers they’re getting on Mookie Betts, and the Indians continue to demand an arm and a leg for Francisco Lindor.

Since neither team expects to be serious contenders in their division and they’re facing losing their player to free-agency anyway, a mid-season trade becomes more likely.

The Indians paid Lindor $10,850,000 in 2019. He is eligible for arbitration, and the 25-year-old All-Star is apt to win his case for around $15 million.

Should the Mets acquire Lindor, the team becomes responsible for the final two months of his 2020 salary, or about $5 million.

Trading for Betts will be even more expensive for the Mets. Also eligible for arbitration, a reasonable estimate of his 2020 salary is $25 million. In turn, the Mets would need to come up with around $8 million to pay Betts for the rest of the season.

More Options For The Mets

David Wright, New York Mets Credit: New York Post
David Wright, New York Mets Credit: New York Post

One way the Mets can manufacture more breathing room is to talk to David Wright about the $12 million he is owed for 2020. With the extra $5 million eligible tax money added, the figure reaches $17 million, a healthy chunk against the threshold.

If the Mets can convince Wright he can live on $3 million this year with the balance deferred over the next three years, The Captain can be a hero again.

Savings are already in play with Brodie Van Wagenen’s efforts to rid the team of Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, who represent a hit of around $22 million this year.

The trouble there, of course, is every team knows the Mets are desperate to unload the two players, so as the Yankees are discovering with J.A. Happ, these are not routine deals to make without taking an unwanted bath.

Good God, It’s Only January…

I can hear it already. It’s only January, and you expect the Mets to be thinking about July?

Mets need to do the luxury tax math

Damn straight. There has to be a plan in place that covers every contingency.

A team is going to swing and miss occasionally, and no one can predict injuries – but at least the attempt to touch all the bases needs to be apparent and underway in-house.

For now, the Mets can be on stand-by. They’ve fortified the bullpen adding Dellin Betances, and they’ve added two proven veteran pitchers in Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Brandon Nimmo isn’t the worst idea for a center fielder, and Yoenis Cespedes is going to have to show up to get paid.

Not too shabby for a Mets team starting the new season. But they have payroll work left to do between now and July – because if there’s no money in the bank – there can be no opportunity for the Mets to be players in the July sweepstakes when they come around.

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The Mets need breathing room on payroll to prepare for July trade deadline
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The Mets need breathing room on payroll to prepare for July trade deadline
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The Mets have completed nearly all of the offseason shopping. There's always want for more, but the payroll says otherwise. Come July that can change...
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Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.