In comparing 2016 team payrolls, the Mets sit squarely in the middle, ranked 15th of 30 teams. At the top are the Dodgers ($248 million) and Yankees ($228 million), followed by the Red Sox and Tigers, each just a whisker under $200 million. The next group of teams with payrolls ranging from $158 million to $172 million includes the Rangers, Angels, Cubs and Giants.
This top tier of eight expensive teams is off-set by a bottom tier of frugal teams that includes the Brewers ($64 million), Rays ($67 million) and Marlins ($74 million), all with payrolls roughly equivalent to two Zack Grienkes. The only other three teams below $95 million are the small market A’s and the rebuilding Reds, Phillies and Braves.
The next tier from the bottom includes seven teams with payrolls ranging from $96 million to $105 million. This group includes the Astros, Indians, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Padres, and Twins. The Rockies and White Sox sit at $113 and $114 million respectively. Square in the middle of the pack, with payrolls ranging from $130 million to $150 million are the Royals, Mets ($135,188,085), Blue Jays, Mariners, Nationals, Cardinals and Orioles.
The top teams all have something in common – dead wood contracts. Yes, three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw has a monster salary, but by WAR standards, ROI and every other standard you can think of, he’s worth every nickel. The reason the Dodgers payroll is out of control is because they’re paying hasbeen Carl Crawford and the injured Andre Ethier a combined $39 million. The Yankees are paying the once great and now pretty lousy CC Sabathia $25 million this year.
The Mets have no such albatross, despite recent discussions about David Wright. While we are all concerned about the ability of our captain to play through spinal stenosis, declining range and power, it’s far too early to lump our $20 million dollar player into the hasbeen category. Wright is still just 33 and, though in limited time, did play reasonably well last season. Wright also plays an important role as a clubhouse leader and team ambassador. While hard to quantify, that’s got to be worth something. He still sells jerseys too. Hopefully, he can stay reasonably healthy in 2016, play a solid third base and give us a good OBP and a fair number of doubles and homers. Wright is our second highest paid player this season behind Yoenis Cespedes.
Is our unpredictable 2015 savior really worth the $27.5 million we’ll be paying him this season? We’ll find out. But, as we know, Cespedes’ value transcends his on-field performance. For one thing, the ROI is tremendous. From the moment the Mets front office shocked their fans and the baseball world by ponying up the big bucks to bring back Cespedes, ticket sales increased significantly. It delivered a clear message to fans that ownership was committed to winning. Cespedes is also a drawing card, the type of exciting player that people pay to see. Additionally, Cespedes provides a feared right-handed power bat that balances our lineup and offers those hitting around him the opportunity to see better pitches to hit. David Wright and Lucas Duda, in particular, benefit greatly from having him in the lineup.
The next highest paid Met in 2016 is Curtis Granderson at $16 million. After the season he had last year, and the way he’s established himself in the leadoff spot, in the locker room and as an all-around good guy, few would argue with this value. After the big three, the Mets are paying a combined $26 million for our veteran shortstop combo and fifth starter. These are reasonable sums, as are the arbitration awards to Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed and the modest salaries for free agents Antonio Bastardo and Alejandro de Aza and Jerry Blevins. Juan Lagares is earning $2.5 million, reasonable even for a fourth outfielder. The rest of the roster is all earning below $1 million for the 2016 season.
All things considered, the Mets payroll is about where it should be. Wright’s contract may be a problem for us down the road, but as long as it’s the only one, we’ll be okay, particularly if we get the playoff revenues we’re all anticipating.