R.A. Dickey’s comments, Wright’s contract, 2013 payroll, Wilpons’ debts

The Mets hold an annual Christmas party for charity, where they invite both players and members of the media. This is usually a win-win-win situation. Obviously, the charities win. The Mets win by getting publicity in late December that they otherwise would not receive. And the fans win because reporters get access to players and pass along some first-hand information. But this year’s event was a different story.

For some reason, the Mets invited R.A. Dickey to come to this event. Dickey is under contract for 2013 but it’s no secret that the Mets are simultaneously shopping Dickey for some offensive help while also negotiating a contract extension. Dickey has stated more than once that he wants to remain with the Mets and it’s clear that he’s frustrated with how the process has evolved, even if he understands why that is.

Still, it seems irresponsible for the Mets to invite Dickey to this party, knowing full well that there will be members of the media there. Dickey is honest, intelligent and articulate. So, when he was asked about his contract negotiations, he responded honestly. And now word comes out that the front office is not happy with Dickey for using this event to further his own agenda.

I freely admit that in most cases with a dispute between players and management – I side with the players. Having stated that, I see no reason whatsoever to support the front office in this spat. Did they really think the media wasn’t going to ask Dickey about his contract? Did they really think that Dickey would give a “no comment” or team-favorable spin? Then why are they surprised or disappointed at what ended up happening?

My position is that Sandy Alderson is handling the Dickey extension/trade talks perfectly. He’s holding out for a great deal, knowing that he still has time to hammer out an extension if a trade falls through. Alderson is doing everything there exactly like he should be doing. But the way the front office – that’s how it was described in the media, no specific name attached – is upset with Dickey for his quotes at the party, it’s hard to feel one ounce of sympathy for them whatsoever.

DETAILS OF WRIGHT’S CONTRACT – Originally, David Wright was owed $16 million in 2013. But under terms of his new long-term contract, Wright will receive a salary of $11 million this year, with $3 million of that deferred. Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, Wright will receive $20 million a year, with $2.5 million each year deferred. Finally, Wright will get $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020. So, the Mets will be responsible for $15.5 million in deferred money to Wright, payable at some future date.

When the Mets deferred money for Bobby Bonilla, no one made a fuss of it at the time. But now that he’s back on the payroll, it’s a huge deal. When the Mets only paid Jason Bay $8 million in the first year of his contract, no one batted an eye. But when he was due $18 million this year, it became a big deal. So, if you’re going to be happy about how Wright deferred money now, don’t complain when it becomes another burden in the future.

2013 PAYROLL STILL UP IN THE AIR – With news of new money being available thanks to the restructuring of payouts to both Jason Bay and Wright, Mets fans are dreaming of a new free agent outfielder. However, you should not hold your breath waiting on that to happen. Alderson is already saying that the 2013 team will look a lot like the 2012 squad and that just because he has more money – that doesn’t mean that it will be spent in December. Alderson claims the money could be spent before Spring Training, at the trade deadline or not at all.

The Mets still have a staggering amount of debt. It’s difficult to find out exactly how much is due, but we do know there is $430 million in principle on a loan they took out on the team due in 2014. There’s also a $450 million loan against SNY due in 2015. Additionally, they owe $25 million every six months on stadium debt.

Earlier this year, there was talk about refinancing some of the team’s debt but to the best of my knowledge nothing concrete has happened in that regard yet. Oh yeah, that $430 million dollar loan? That paid off their SNY partners for start-up costs and also gave the owners $239 million in dividends. That’s right, they borrowed money to give themselves a dividend. So don’t expect this group to automatically reinvest money “saved” from the Bay and Wright deals into the 2013 payroll.

ALDERSON AND THE WINTER MEETINGS – Many people were upset that the Mets did not accomplish anything concrete at this year’s Winter Meetings. However, judging on what happened at those same meeting in 2010 and 2011 – perhaps we should be happy. In Alderson’s first Winter Meetings with the Mets, he came home with D.J. Carrasco and Ronny Paulino. Last year, he came home with Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch and Andres Torres. Those six players were paid $18.1 million and returned 1.6 fWAR. Plus, the Mets still owe Francisco an additional $6.5 million in 2013.

IS ROSS RIGHT? – One name that the Mets are supposedly interested in is outfielder Cody Ross. Last year Ross, a righty batter, had an .807 OPS and 22 HR in 528 PA with the Red Sox. It would seem to be a nice fit, especially as Ross is capable of playing some in CF. But keep in mind that Ross had a .921 OPS in Fenway Park last year and a .684 mark in road games. Also, in the second half of the year, Ross had a .752 OPS after starting out with an .882 mark.

Perhaps the thing to be scared about the most with Ross is that he throws left handed and has a pitching appearance – one scoreless inning – on his resume. Would Terry Collins immediately put Ross into his pitching plans, figuring out ways to get him into the game against the dangerous Dee Gordon (.561 OPS) and his ilk? It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

*****

Links for Mets finances:

http://www.northjersey.com/sports/Klapisch_Mets_are_too_broke_to_even_compete.html?page=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/sports/baseball/mets-owners-pay-162-million-to-settle-madoff-suit.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2012/10/06/mets-owners-may-pay-themselves-big-dividend-while-teams-fans-suffer/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/06/sports/baseball/mets-and-sny-seek-banks-help-with-debt.html?_r=0

14 comments for “R.A. Dickey’s comments, Wright’s contract, 2013 payroll, Wilpons’ debts

  1. Chris F
    December 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Brian, I simply could not disagree more. I think Sandy has done an embarrassing job dealing with RA, with the result of making the situation completely toxic and killing morale of a fan base that is sketchy at best. Keep in mind, the dollars in play are tiny by MLB standards. No team is going to give up their best prospects for him, that is now clear at a time when the Mets themselves are offering what could be considered an insult for a contract extension. RA has been his genuine self all through this, and looking for what would seem fair compensation. What we have is a complete mess that will blow up against this team. Im now cheering for that very thing. I hope he makes it to FA and gets a fortune, leaving this upper management group completely ablaze with nothing in return. The Sandy Alderson experiment has been a baseball failure, about at the same scale the Wilpon’s are an ownership failure.

    • December 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I wouldn’t describe it as toxic at all. The latest scuttlebutt is that Dickey wants an extension for 2/$26 while the Mets have offered 2/$20. That’s a very bridgeable gap, even if the Mets have to make all of the movement.

      I think Dickey is hurt now, but I can’t imagine that once he gets the contract that he will hold some kind of grudge against the team over the next three years.

      I think the big thing working for the Mets in this case is that deep down, Dickey understands why they’re doing things this way. Even if he’s hurt by it, he understands all about how team’s use leverage when they have it. That’s what’s been done to him throughout his entire career.

      Right now I think the most likely outcome is that the Mets trade him. But it’s not overwhelming odds at all and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dickey came back to the Mets with an extension. And if that’s how it plays out, I’ll be happy getting to see him pitch every five days or so.

      • Name
        December 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        I don’t think that dickey will hold a grudge on the mets for the rest of his career. It would take a truly cold hearted person to do that.
        I remember someone mentioning that Wilpons made a comment that really hurt Wright, yet he resigned a long term deal with the mets.

        • December 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

          That is a good point.

          • Chris F
            December 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm

            It’s in his best interest to play the best he can. He’s a pro, that’s all he would ever do. But the blood is bad. At this point I would not expect him to sign for anything less than 3/30, and if this the case, was this exercise in being the bully on the playground worth it? No. I think this diminishes the likelihood of resigning him.

      • Metsense
        December 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

        Another public relations disaster. If it is 2 more years and 26M and 5M for 2013, what are they waiting for! Oh yea, we might get two minor leaguers ready three years from now at hardly any cost. Sorry, I need the 600 innings, the charisma, a feeling of confidence every five days. At least RA he didn’t put his comments in the New Yorker.

        • Name
          December 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

          I agree that this has become a PR mess for the Mets. Couldn’t have come at a worse time too

  2. December 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I agree 100% with your assessment of Dickey/Mets Christmas contract drama, Brian. Alderson’s handling it right. Dickey’s frustrated, but has no real recourse other than to cut off his nose to spite his face (which he won’t do). And whoever decided that having Dickey at the Christmas party was a good idea needs a spanking.

    As for payroll, it’s awfully difficult to get a sense of what’s actually available. Here’s what I have on that front (using MLBTR’s arb estimates):

    Base salaries for 2013: $83.5M
    Breakdown – Santana: $25.5M, Wright: $11M, Francisco: $6.5M, Dickey: $5M, Murphy: $3M, Davis: $2.8M, Parnell: $1.5M, Thole: $1.2M, Bay: $16M, Other 16 players at $500K apiece: $8M

    Signing bonuses for 2013: $2.05M
    Breakdown – Niese: $50K, Bay: $2M

    2014 Buyouts: $8.5M
    Breakdown – Santana: $5.5M, Bay: $3M

    Deferred Money: $23M
    Breakdown – Santana: $5M, Wright: $3M, Bay: $15M

    So the current payroll at the high end would be $94.05M, which is base salaries + signing bonuses + 2014 buyouts. This ignores the deferred money and charges all of it against 2013 payroll.

    At the low end the current 2013 payroll is $65.55M, which is base salaries + signing bonuses – deferred money + $3M (to get Bay’s 2013 cost to $6M). This incorporates the “savings” from deferrals and allocates the 2014 buyouts to 2014 (though it also ignores deferred money from prior contracts, which, if you’re treating all deferred money the same should, in this scenario, count against 2013).

    So if the plan is for 2013 payroll to be $100M, the Mets have between $5.95M and $34.45M remaining to spend on the 2013 ballclub. Have fun sorting that out.

    • December 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks Chris!

      I think Alderson is already on record as saying that 2014 buyouts would be allocated to this season.

      • December 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        Right, I remember hearing that too (as silly as it is from an accounting standpoint, IMO). There’s still a ton of real estate between the number with & without the deferred money. The floor raises to $71.05M if you include the 2014 buyouts. But I don’t know how you can honestly start allocating deferred money to different years if you haven’t done that all along. I didn’t see anyone citing Santana’s 2012 salary as $19M, for instance, despite the fact that $5M of his $24M was deferred to 2019. Similarly, Francisco Rodriguez’s 2012 buyout wasn’t charged to 2011 prior to Opening Day of that year like Bay’s & Santana’s allegedly will be next year. Why is that all of a sudden okay to do? I guess maybe there’s something to be gained on the morale/PR front (with the media & fanbase) from using inconsistent math to support your desired narrative. But its frustrating to those of us willing to stomach bad news so long as it’s accurate. I plan on (for my own purposes) continuing to calculate payrolls using a rational, consistent methodology. It’ll be interesting (to me at least) to bump that up against the numbers they ultimately put out.

        • December 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm

          You just know that whatever salary saving there is this year, it WILL go to debts service and if anything is left over, it will wind up in a Wilponian pocket, while the teams posts another 70 W season…

        • December 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm

          Sorry about the typos: righteous wrath makes my fingers hurt…

  3. steevy
    December 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I just saw over at Baseball Reference that the Mets are concerned with Dickey on and off the field.Off the field?Really??

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