4:50 pm Aug. 20, 2012
The New York Mets, with a 57-63 record overall and 14-28 since July 1, are eager to convince their fans that there are better times ahead in 2013. But they're running out of time to do so, with an August 31 renewal date for season ticket holders.
Which in turn means that help is not on the way.
In 2012, the Mets featured a payroll of $91.6 million. In 2013, they already have $25.5 million guaranteed to Johan Santana, $16 million to Jason Bay, $6.5 million to Frank Francisco and $3 million to Jonathon Niese. They have a $16 million option on David Wright, their best position player, and a $5 million option on R.A. Dickey, their best pitcher. Assuming they pick up both of these options, that's a total of $72 million for six players.
Of course, two of the six are unlikely to provide a full season of production (Bay and Santana), while Francisco has struggled. But the Mets will need to assume all six are providing value next year, because that still leaves only around $20 million for 19 players.
Let's assume for the moment that the reason they did not trade Scott Hairston, and acquired Kelly Shoppach, because they intend to re-sign both players. And let's further assume that both are willing to come back to the Mets for the $1.1 million each played for in 2012. That takes the Mets to $74 million for 17 players.
They have three players who appear certain to qualify for arbitration next year: Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy. Rubin reported that Thole is likely to be arbitration eligible as well. Assuming each will make approximately $1 million in arbitration, that gets the Mets to $78 million for 13 players. If all 13 are league minimum deals, that gives the Mets around $5-6 million to add talent. That won't buy much on the free agent market, a problem for a team in need of, among other things, a whole outfield, a bullpen, and depth at nearly every position.
That assumes things like letting Jon Rauch, the team's most reliable reliever (faint praise, I know) and Andres Torres, the only realistic option currently under contract in the organization to play center field in 2013, go via free agency and a non-tender, respectively.
All of this assumes the Mets are calculating the $5.5 million it will cost them at the conclusion of the 2013 season to buy out Santana's 2014 option, and the $3 million it will cost to do the same for Bay, as 2014 expenses. If that is part of their 2013 calculation, even the small free agent cache of cash disappears before the Mets make a move.
"They may have $10 million to $15 million max to spend--if [general manager Sandy Alderson] is lucky," Rubin's source told him.
The math suggests it is unlikely Alderson will be even this lucky. Which, for Mets fans, is too bad.