Two years ago, I wrote a piece about the Mets’ 2011-12 offseason. If you’ve mentally blocked that offseason, it’s the one that saw an historic nominal payroll reduction, with something in the neighborhood of $50M net coming off the books. The goal of that piece was to put that immense payroll decrease into perspective by examining the actual on-field impact of the dollars that the Mets were opting not to replace. So here we are, at the beginning of another offseason in which a ton of payroll, much of it dead weight, has come off the books. Seems as good a time as any to try once again to do some payroll analysis and add a little context to the situation.
Let’s review the process. I pulled salary data from Cot’s Contracts (which is a fantastic, free resource that you should all have bookmarked) for every player on the Mets’ 2013 payroll. This includes Jason Bay. It does not include Carlos Beltran or Bobby Bonilla or Bret Saberhagen, because deferred money is a different animal. It does, however, include the buyouts paid to Bay and Johan Santana. Ordinarily I would count those buyouts in the year that the salary they relate to would have been earned (in this case, 2014). But Mets GM Sandy Alderson was crystal clear when he spoke about these buyouts last offseason, specifically that they would count against 2013 payroll. So be it.
I used transactions data from MLB’s website to keep track of which players were on the active roster for each of the 183 days of the 2013 season. Then I calculated total ML payroll and what I call the effective payroll (which is the payroll of the active roster only). I refer to the difference between these numbers, the amount spent on players ineligible to help the team win on a given day, as the deficit.
Biggest Contributors to 2013 Average Payroll:
1. Johan Santana – $31.0M ($25.5M in salary plus $5.5M 2014 buyout)
2. Jason Bay – $21.1M ($16.0M in salary plus $3.0M in 2014 buyout plus $2.1M in prorated signing bonus)
3. David Wright – $11.0M
4. Frank Francisco – $6.5M
5. John Buck – $5.1M (after savings from the August trade to Pittsburgh)
6. Shaun Marcum – $4.0M
Biggest Contributors to 2013 Deficit:
1. Johan Santana – $31.0M
2. Jason Bay – $21.2M
3. Frank Francisco – $5.7M
4. David Wright – $2.9M
5. Shaun Marcum – $2.4M
6. Jon Niese – $0.9M
Using this process, the Mets spent $103,673,341 on Major League salaries in 2013. Of that total, the effective payroll amounted to just $35,646,953, implying a deficit of $68,026,388. For every dollar the Mets spent on players on the field in 2013, they spent nearly two dollars on players not on the field.
Graphing these results, it’s easy to identify the major salary-related events, such as David Wright (and his ten-plus-percent-of-the-team’s-payroll salary) hitting the DL, the John Buck-Marlon Byrd trade, and then Wright’s return. It’s also easy to see the money on the field (the happy light blue) relative to the money off it (the sad dark blue).
The Mets’ payroll situation since the Bernie Madoff disaster has been an embarrassing mess that has cost the team half a decade and counting. But I’m an optimist. I can’t help it. So when I look at the Mets’ payroll, what I choose to focus on is that five of their six highest paid players in 2013 came off the books, and the one that remains is their lone bona fide star. The Mets’ total ML payroll dropped nearly $20M this offseason, but their effective payroll on Opening Day 2014 will be more than double what it was at the close of the 2013 season. What that means for 2014’s record remains to be seen, but allocating payroll more efficiently is certainly another step in the right direction.
If you’re interested in Major League transactions, rules, and procedures, or if you just want to know which Mets have options left and who’s eligible for next winter’s Rule 5 draft, be sure to check out http://tpgmets.blogspot.com, and follow me on Twitter @tpgMets.