Coming to grips with the Mets’ 2013 payroll

Now that the R.A. Dickey and David Wright questions have been answered, the Mets can move on to other business.  But before we can get into specifics, let’s go back and look at one of the most fundamental questions there is as far as team building: What’s the available payroll for 2013?

After last year, when fans were lied to repeatedly over what the actual payroll was going to be, we know better than to trust any numbers thrown out now by management.  Unfortunately, we now have to take that mistrust to another level.

Accounting-type tricks that were once used to hide revenue are now being used to distort payroll.  The most obvious of these are 2014 options being accounted for in 2013 payroll.   Here is a Google document from the good folks over at Real Dirty Mets Blog.  Go visit their site to see this in a much more user-friendly format


2013 Projected Mets Roster & Team Payroll
Roster # Pos B/T Player 2012 Salary Projection
1 SP L/L Johan Santana + buyout $26,000,000
LF R/R # Jason Bay + buyout $6,000,000
2 3B R/R David Wright $8,000,000
3 RP R/R Frank Francisco $6,500,000
4 C R/R John Buck $6,000,000
5 SP L/L Jonathon Niese $3,000,000
Total $55,500,000
6 2B L/R ** Daniel Murphy $3,000,000
7 1B L/L ** Ike Davis $2,800,000
8 RP R/R ** Bobby Parnell $1,500,000
9 IF R/R * Justin Turner $490,000
10 SS R/R * Ruben Tejada $490,000
11 RF L/R * Lucas Duda $490,000
12 SP R/R * Dillon Gee $490,000
13 SP R/R * Matt Harvey $490,000
14 RP L/L * Josh Edgin $490,000
15 Player to be determined $490,000
Adjusted New Total $66,230,000
16 Player to be determined $490,000
17 Player to be determined $490,000
18 Player to be determined $490,000
19 Player to be determined $490,000
20 Player to be determined $490,000
21 Player to be determined $490,000
22 Player to be determined $490,000
23 Player to be determined $490,000
24 Player to be determined $490,000
25 Player to be determined $490,000
Final Overall Total $71,130,000
Estimated 2013 Total Budget $100,000,000
Remaining Balance Of 2013 Budget $28,870,000
** Based on Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections
* Estimate of 2013 salary based on premise of player getting min salary according to cba
# Is not part of the active roster

Wright’s salary this year is $11 million with $3 million deferred. It would not surprise me if when calculating payroll for public consumption if the Mets included the full $11 million under the 2013 payroll.

Ideally, a New York team should have a payroll among the league leaders. The reality is that the Wilpons have a ton of debt and the payroll will not go up in the immediate future. It’s much, much more likely to go down from last year’s $95 million number than anything else.

It is my belief that most fans will generally accept this if the Mets would just come out and say it. Sure – there will be loud grumbling about it. But you know what? There’s already loud grumbling about it so it’s not like there would be some huge public perception change.

A lot of people are still living in the instant gratification, spend money on free agents now mode. They see Michael Bourn out there and want the club to invest big dollars to make him the club’s center fielder. Never mind the fact that he has no power, bats lefty and has an unimpressive .339 lifetime OBP – just sign him already!

Now, that’s not necessarily fair to Bourn, who is an elite defensive player and one whose speed really is an asset to a club. But with Scott Boras as his agent, will Bourn really sign for anything less than Angel Pagan’s four-year/$40 million deal?

The point is that if the Mets would be honest about their payroll restrictions, not many people would be campaigning to sign Bourn. The chart above lists the Mets with almost $29 million in discretionary money available this offseason. If that were true, chasing Bourn would make sense. Even if he cost $15 million, there would still be plenty of money left over to re-sign Scott Hairston and add a couple of middle relievers.

But what if the payroll this year is going to be $85 million, including Wright’s deferral? Then there is only $10 million in discretionary money available to Sandy Alderson. Bourn is off the table and you can see why there’s such great hesitation to re-up with Hairston, despite everyone agreeing that he’s an excellent platoon player, if not a full-time OF.

No doubt many reading this are throwing their hands up in the air and mentally imploring the Wilpons to just sell already. From our point of view, that makes sense. But we have to look at it from the owners’ point of view. They have an asset that has the ability to be a tremendous money maker but right now there are severe short-term liquidity problems.

When you’re playing Monopoly, you don’t trade in your hotels and mortgage/sell Boardwalk and Park Place until every other option has been exhausted. And in the Mets’ case, they still have Electric Company, Indiana Avenue and B&O Railroad to leverage first. And we shouldn’t blame them for doing that.

In the short-term, the Mets need to continue to cut payroll and convince the banks to refinance some of the loans that are coming due in the next two-to-three years. It’s tough sledding for the Wilpons currently. But now that the Madoff case has been resolved favorably, one can see a pathway for them to retain the club.

That’s always been their goal – to keep the Mets under Wilpon family control. Would any of us really act differently if the situation was reversed? If you were Jeff Wilpon, would you urge your dad to sell so the family wouldn’t be dragged through the mud for the next three years? Or would you tell him to hang on, knowing full well seven years from now this asset will make you tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis?

So, understand the restructurings which happened with contracts were not done to help improve the 2013 payroll but rather to aid in the Wilpons’ immediate liquidity. And don’t expect big free agent acquisitions next year, either. These restructurings are eating into the money that was supposed to be saved with Bay and Santana no longer on the payroll.

22 comments for “Coming to grips with the Mets’ 2013 payroll

  1. Name
    December 22, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Actually that monopoly simile is actually a good fit for the Mets. While it is the most flashy, it actually does not provide the best bang for the buck.
    Usually the orange or red properties are the best properties to have, but a lot of people don’t recognize their value.

    So while it might be nice to sign a Greinke or Hamilton, it is actually the mid tier guys who provide good value relative to pay and the best to have on the team.

    • December 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      My favorite are the Reds. I like they are all over $1,000 with a hotel plus you have the Chance card directing players to Illinois Avenue.

      • Name
        December 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        I actually prefer the Oranges because it is within reach of the jail and the fact that the cost to build are $50 cheaper per house, but i think it’s been mathematically proven that the Reds are in fact the best properties to own.

  2. JoeG
    December 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

    When are they going to pickup someone/anyone. All these players that were cut or free agents like: Russ Canzler ,Nate Schierholtz,Rich Harden,Francisco Liriano,Jim Miller,Scott Van Slyke,Tom Gorzelanny……are getting picked up by other teams not name Mets,why? I do think they can still be over .500 with a few right moves. And this day and age over .500 might mean a wild card. These and others wouldn’t “break” their bank, and I would love for them to sign Bourn , but that might be too much to ask. But can they at least starting adding some players to the 2013 roster that will improve the team.

    • December 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Most of those guys stink. And where’s the love for Collin Cowgill?

  3. JerryGrote
    December 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I wouldn’t truly be looking at Bourne anyways – the last thing I want to do is pay, then give my division rival a #1 pick for the opportunity. I really don’t see that much Bourne hype here anyways.

    Alderson is avoiding bidding wars, and that’s precisely what Ross will bring (especially if Napoli fails to sign … which I think is truly the other shoe to drop).

    The team can’t afford to overpay, so it seems prudent to me. As fans we tend to be impatient but Alderson’s approach has paid off several times. Miss small, they say in the military and I’m sure that resonates with the former Marine.

    I think he gives Hairston the raise the guy deserves on Gomes-equivilant (2/10) … and cobbles together enough for Marcum/Capuano/Harang et al.

    • December 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Early last September I speculated a 2/8 contract for Hairston. I still see that as a possibility.

      • Don O'Brien
        December 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

        Brian, Agree on that 2/8 for Scotty. But, DO IT NOW for Pete’s sake, before you lose him. If the Yankees get him, I will never buy another ticket to City Field.

        • Chris F
          December 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm

          With Cody Ross billeted for AZ now at 3/26, Scotty may be out of reach for the mets.

  4. Chris F
    December 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Interesting article Brian. It reinforces the idea that not much more is coming this year. I see solutions to the OF and pen as future endeavors in different years. What scares me most is the “hang on to Boardwalk” mentality that is a perfect analogy and one we’ve seen in action. But what seems different is that hanging on requires years of continued failing reputation, decreasing fan interest (which will decrease day to day liquidity), and failure to make winning a silly game a primary concern. So yeah, hold on during the storm as a personal way, but in the mean time damage the franchise which is the core of their worth. It’s appalling. By contrast, the franchise could surely could command 1.5B$ in sale and solve all their financial woes and set them for eternity as an empire lickity split (just guessing). As a fan, it tells me that more lean, very lean, moneyball years be front us. Developing a championship team will not be the main focus when solvency is a big concern. It doesn’t sound great.

  5. steevy
    December 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I really don’t want Hairston as I expect a huge drop off in production from him.Like you say Brian,it’s the lying about payroll that bothers me most.

    • Don O'Brien
      December 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      steevy, Why do you expect a Huge drop-off in production. He’s one of the most natural hitters I’ve seen. He hits hard line drives and half his hits were for extra bases. His SLG was highest on the team, and he had 22 HRs in only 377 ABs. His stolen bases were 8/2, compared to Cody Ross’s 2/3. Did you see every game? I did and I felt better with Scott at bat in a key spot than anyone else except Wright and Murphy. He’s the best RHH platoon OF available and 2/8 would be a steal.

      • Name
        December 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        The two previous years before last year, he had BA’s of .210 and .235 and HR totals of 10 and 7. It’s perfectly justified to think that last year was a fluke at .263/20 HR’s.

  6. JerryGrote
    December 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    On a dollar for WAR basis, Hairston makes great sense … for any other team they might see $4-6 as a part time commitment. But for the Mets that is a full time player.

    Not to contradict myself, but if you have to get to $5M its likely that Crisp gets into play CF for 2-3 WAR and $7.5M.

    Assuming the Mets actually could pay for Justin Upton … what would it cost in the way of prospects?

  7. steevy
    December 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hairston career splits against RH .229/.288/416 against LH .276/.325/.500 last season against RH .239/.281/.457 against LH .286/.317/.550 ,I just believe a drop off is likely.As a pure platoon bat I like him,but he will need to play every day with the Mets finances and his numbers against righties are likely to drop to his carrer average.

  8. December 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    But if attendance continues to decline because who wants to pay 200 dollars for 4 average seats just to watch AAA players? There is always the option of watching the team on television. The economy is stagnant at best so where and how are the Mets going to bring people in when they couldn’t even give tickets away last year for R.A.s attempt at 20 wins? The truth in this matter is that the Wilpons are very fortunate that the commissioner is a personal friend. What’s the difference between the Mets situation and the Dodgers these past few years? The value of the team continues to decline. Isn’t it an embarrassment to the commissioners office if the Mets find themselves in the bottom half of the revenue drawing teams and start receiving money from other teams while playing in the number one market in America? If you don’t want to see the Wilpons as owners then boycott Opening Day at Citifield. It’s not the players fault but the message will be loud and clear if only 5-10,000 people show up.

    • December 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      I’m of the opinion that $200 for four average seats is too much for a game but that’s something each individual has to decide for themselves. But I vehemently disagree that the 2013 Mets are fielding a Triple-A lineup.

      You are correct that the Mets are fortunate that they have Selig in their corner. But it’s a completely different situation that the Mets and Dodgers were in. Yes, they were both embarrassing but not in remotely similar ways. The two main differences as I recall from the LA situation is that the Mets never filed for bankruptcy and the Mets’ owners never had a public divorce that risked making private MLB financial numbers public.

      Changes made in the last CBA prevent teams in the 15 largest markets from receiving revenue-sharing money, on a graduated basis. Beginning with the 2013 revenue-sharing year, “big-market clubs” will forfeit a percentage of their net revenue-sharing proceeds; 25% will be forfeited in 2013, 50% forfeited in 2014, 75% forfeited in 2015, and 100% forfeited in 2016.

      Newsday just reported that the Mets had a ballpark revenue total of $118,661,207 in 2012 and you have to add in TV money to that to see if the club would pay or receive revenue sharing in 2012. My guess is that they are still a payer although it’s not a huge number, relatively speaking.

      • NormE
        December 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

        When Pete refers to the Mets as a AAA team he is probably speaking out of frustration. The truth is that they are at best mediocre.
        The infield is okay, but the outfield is a mess. The bullpen is shaky and they have a starting staff that has major question marks with
        Santana and Gee coming off the DL plus the need for a fifth starter.

        A boycott, even if it is successful, will fall on deaf ears. Bud Selig is nothing if not stubborn. He will support his loyal friends. Brian is correct that the Mets and Dodgers were different situations. But, he could have added that McCourt in LA was not a friend, but Wilpon in NY is. The lucrative TV package, and the marketing money will cover up for a less than thriving team in Queens.

        • Name
          December 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm

          MLB just can’t go around “firing” an owner each time a team refuses to spend (or spend at what the fans think is an acceptable level).
          If that were the case, Jeffrey Loria would be the first to go.

  9. December 23, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Thank you for the information. Yes,I am comparing apples and oranges with the Mets and Dodgers. I speak out of frustration knowing that the Wilpons are not going anywhere and that we as fans have to endure their penny pinching. But the bottom line is the Mets are being handicapped by the inability of ownership to spend what we would consider to be an adequate amount of money for a team in the New York market. Where will the revenue from television(SNY) and radio go? Towards payroll? I doubt it. If what Newsday reports is correct then the payroll is paid by the revenue from Citifield. Finally I have a question for Brian. What happens if the Wilpons can’t refinance their bank notes that are due in the next couple of years? Finally to NormE the Dodgers have new ownership with MONEY AND ARE WILLING TO INVEST IT in the team. Maybe that scenario can happen here one day? I doubt it. After all we are die hard Met fans who know our fate in life.

  10. December 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Jeff Loria was on the “hot seat” and was placed on notice for 2 years by the commissioners office after the players I believe filed a grievance against the team. Coincidentally just when the probation period expired he traded away all his high priced free agents. Hmm? Makes you kind of wonder? So after asking the public for hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance their new stadium he decides he’s going to put a team on the field that no one will go watch and revert back to his old ways. Go to Cot’s and look up the Miami payroll since 2000 and you’ll see what I am talking about.

  11. December 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    You write in the short term the Mets need to cut payroll to convince the banks for a re-finance of their debts. What you should state is that the WILPONS not the Mets need to show the banks their fiscal responsibilities.

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