Juan LagaresIt’s no secret that the New York Mets are not a fiscally sound organization. This has played havoc with the on-field product for half a decade now at least, and will continue to curtail large free agent signings for some time to come. That may be for the benefit of the team, though. As more and more young stars are being locked up early, less and less talent hits the open market, and the cost of doing business on that market is spiking. The Mets, therefore, will need to lock up some of their own young talent in order to become a consistent contender. Let’s take a look at who might be the first to get such a deal.

The Mets haven’t offered many extensions in the recent past. David Wright’s eight-year, $138 million signature was the last meaningful extension since Jon Niese’s relatively small deal the year prior. Before that, it was the Oliver Perez disaster of 2009. As of now there are only four players (Wright, Niese, Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer) who the Mets know for certain what they are paying going into 2016. Bartolo Colon, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell will all be free agents. Both Colon and Murphy are likely to be wearing other uniforms by year’s end. Parnell is still a mystery of sorts, after returning from two major injuries back to back. Even if he proves to be a stud closer again, he will probably price himself out of New York, or at least Queens.

So the likeliest extension candidate would be someone entering arbitration. Dillon Gee is earning $5.3 million and is up for arbitration again next year. Of course he might not be a Met by the end of this week, let alone the year. The other players going into arbitration following 2015 are Lucas Duda (3rd time), Ruben Tejada (3rd time), Jenrry Mejia (2nd time), Juan Lagares, Anthony Recker, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Torres, Josh Edgins and Matt Harvey (all 1st time). Most fans would see this list and immediately suggest Harvey is the player to extend, and there isn’t much to fault that argument. If patience is Sandy Alderson’s best virtue though, he might want to hold off on that one.

Harvey is returning from Tommy John surgery, and there is still the possibility that he won’t come back to form in 2015. While none of us hope for that, the only silver lining to that scenario is that his first arbitration hearing probably won’t cost the Mets an arm and a leg. If Harvey does pitch strong, then an extension might be in order. With Scott Boras as an agent and a penchant for the high life, Harvey isn’t likely to give the Mets any sort of discount, and it might be more beneficial for the Mets to listen to trade offers sooner rather than later. But that is slightly off-topic.

So a Harvey extension might be in order, but it will cost tons, so there is no rush. Of the rest of the players, Carlos Torres, Ruben Tejada and Anthony Recker seem inclined to be cut loose rather than extended, or at least signed at minimal expense. Josh Edgins is a valuable piece at the moment, but his cost probably won’t skyrocket, and relievers hardly ever get extensions. Similarly, the only way Familia or Mejia would receive a sizable deal is if one of them proves to be the future closer for the next couple of years, but even then the Mets might just let arbitration define their worth for another year or two before considering a longer deal.

So that leaves Lagares, Duda, and perhaps Harvey, depending on your viewpoint. The Mets have only $35 million dollars delegated in 2017 for Wright and Granderson, but then that year Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores will be entering arbitration as well, and the aforementioned players will probably see some pay increases. As you can see, things are going to get expensive quickly. It behoves the Mets to try and lock up one or two players in the meantime to team-friendly extensions before they severely break out. Lagares will be the cheaper option, as Duda’s 2014 season was a sign of things to come. Duda’s 2015 salary is anticipated to be around $4.25 million, and if he repeats last year’s stats, he could see another sizable pay raise.

Granted, Lagares has had injuries and still has some offensive work to do. But if the Mets strike now they might sign him to a theoretical six-year, $30 million contract. That is simply an educated guess and not meant to be bulls-eye accurate, but something similar would keep a dynamic defensive player under a reasonable contract, and save money that could later be allocated to keep Harvey, Wheeler or d’Arnaud when it’s their time to get paid. Likewise, Duda has some work to do against lefties and until he replicates last year’s stats, he might be signed now at a slight discount. Meanwhile, Dominic Smith is still quite a ways from replacing Duda, and no one else in the system looks to have the same power potential the big man presently offers. Signing Duda to a three or four-year deal at say, $7-9 million a year might be enough to keep him in town. Both extensions would start in 2016, when the Mets look to have $25-28 million coming off the books, so these new financial burdens would be negligible. These might be rose-colored extensions, but neither player at this point in their respective careers’ would seem justified in expecting much more.

Extensions are risky business, and even if the Mets could get both players at reasonable rates, those contracts might end up being overpays. But when Cuddyer is getting $21 million for two years, better and smarter risks should be taken. The Mets have the ability now to save money for years to come, and keep as many of their bright young players in place to be competitive for the long haul. That seems a better plan than continually overpaying aged veterans and hoping the farm can keep spitting out enough controllable talent to make up the difference. Besides, one or two of those talented young players will probably have to be shipped off to restock the farm at some point, and keep costs low. As the Mets minors are filled with more majors-ready pitchers than positions players at the moment, Duda and Lagares don’t assume to be the guys sent packing. (Hence the Harvey trade mentioned earlier.)

We all know the constraints Alderson and his team work under, whether he admits it or not. It’s a very complicated business keeping a team competitive when you’re handcuffed by rising costs. Extending players now means getting them cheaper and opening up options for the future. Holding on to Lagares and/or Duda could be the building blocks of a very strong house. Let’s just hope the homeowners have the wherewithal to recognize a good investment when they see one.

Oh, wait, I forgot who I was talking about.

8 comments on “Finances, extensions, and Juan Lagares

  • TexasGusCC

    Patrick, when John Hart started doing this with Kenny Lofton and His other youngsters in Cleveland, he did it early in their career. However, there are two differences:
    1. He was decisive in which players he was keeping.
    2. The youngsters there weren’t suffocated like Flores was early last year and They attempted to do with Lagares in passed years.

    I wouldn’t extend pitchers too quickly, unless it’s a very team friendly deal with team options (ala Niese). The only extensions I would give out are to Lagares and Duda. The others are too young or haven’t shown enough to be candidates.

  • Brian Joura

    Signing Duda and/or Lagares to this type of contract is a calculated risk. So far, it’s worked out pretty well with Niese, although the Mets are finding it hard to trade him despite his team-friendly deal.

    The questions are: How convinced are you that Duda can maintain his power and that Lagares can post high BABIPs?

    • Patrick Albanesius

      His OBP against lefties in
      2014 – .264
      2013 – .309
      2012 – .304

      His BABIP against lefties in
      2014 – .261
      2013 – .264
      2012 – .350

      And his BABIP against righties
      2014 – .289
      2013 – .280
      2012 – .280

      2014 is the outlier for Duda’s OBP drop. And he’s had consistently bad luck with his BABIP against lefties last year. Granted, maybe his historical BABIP is lower, but you have to figure for possible spikes. I think even if he doesn’t hit well against lefties in 2015, his OBP will carry him. His power numbers seem legitimately stable. I just think he’s very able to improve upon last year’s numbers. Then he will cost a little more.

      With Lagares, I’m just buying the prettiest glove in the store.

  • James Preller

    I’d definitely wait another year on both those guys. Not feeling the urgency.

  • NormE

    Patrick,
    If I was a player agent I would be wary of having a rising or established talent that I represent sign with the Mets. That includes players presently on the team.
    The Wilpons have developed a team-building philosophy based on a fictitious marketplace of their own creation. Both Selig and Alderson are accomplices in this fraud.
    As they reach free agency, those young Mets who have excelled will be traded for less expensive parts, or they will be allowed to leave ala Reyes. Getting draft picks in exchange for major league talent keeps the budget down.
    Unless MLB steps in, and that’s not likely to happen, the Wilpons will continue on this course. Their hope is that there are enough accomplices in Mets fandom who will continue to buy their “spin.”

  • James Newman

    Extending Lagares would be intriguing. If he can stay healthy throughout this entire year, I think that would give the Mets a good enough reason to try to extend him for a couple of years. His bat may be streaky, but his defense is something that will be a given, which is needed in a center fielder. Duda has shown inconsistencies against left-handed pitchers, and therefore I wonder how much value is there. He’s a great power hitter, but he needs to improve against lefties.

  • Chris F

    Its always the risk. Lagares under control til 2020,at which point he will be 30. I cant see really adding a lot of cash to that right now. If he does this for another year or two, then buy out arb years and a year or 2 of FA (but he’d be insane to take that deal!). We have Duda under control for his age 29, 30, 31 seasons and he will certainly get arb increases if the arc of production stays on track. Would buying him out of a couple years for 30 HR power be reasonable if he performs this season? How about going 4/40 for age 30, 31, 32 and 33 seasons? I dont know anything about his agent — at least its not Boras!

    • Metsense

      If all goes well with Dominic Smith then he should be major league ready by 2018. So far I don’t see him as an impact player. If Smith continues his slow progress then it would make sense to extend Duda for an extra year or two.
      The Mets get to evaluate Lagares for 2015 to determine if he is a corner stone player. If he performs well then they should try to extend him for two years.
      Harvey,who already is a cornerstone, should also be offered an extension at the end of the season. How receptive Harvey is to the extension will indicate to the Mets if they should begin to think of trading Harvey before his 5th (2017) or 6th (2018) year.
      The Niese extension is an example of a good extension. The player gets security and management gets a cost saving.

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