A look at the Mets 2018 payroll with MLBTR arbitration numbers

On Tuesday the website MLB Trade Rumors (MLBTR) released their annual arbitration projections. This is the seventh year they’ve done it and while not exact, it gives us an excellent estimate of what players will get if they go through the process. Of course, the Mets typically settle with their players before arbitration, which can certainly influence their salary.

Last year, the Mets had 10 arbitration-eligible players. They settled with nine of them, with only Wilmer Flores going through the process. He became the first Met to have his salary determined through the process since Oliver Perez in 2008. In arbitration, the player files for one salary and the club another and the three-person panel hears arguments and picks a winner. The result is final; there is no appeal.

Flores won his arbitration case, landing a salary of $2.2 million. The Mets had filed a figure of $1.8 million. It’s a bit surprising they weren’t able to settle, especially given the Mets’ long history of avoiding the process. Of course, we don’t know what numbers both sides were talking about before arbitration. It’s certainly possible Flores’ camp was asking for $3 million and the Mets were offering $1.2 million. Part of the arbitration rules state that previous bargaining is not admissible evidence during the hearing.

Here’s what MLBTR had for its estimates in 2017 for Mets players who were arbitration-eligible and what they ended up being paid last year. The players are listed in order of service time, going from most to fewest. And all dollar figures are in millions. Recall that only Flores went through the process. The rest were settled before the hearing.

Player Estimated Actual
Lucas Duda $6.725 $7.25
Rene Rivera $2.2 $1.75
Addison Reed $10.6 $7.75
Matt Harvey $5.2 $5.125
Jeurys Familia $8.7 $7.425
Zack Wheeler $1 $0.8
Josh Edgin $0.8 $0.675
Travis d’Arnaud $1.7 $1.875
Flores $1.9 $2.2
Jacob deGrom $4.5 $4.05

The surprising numbers belong to Reed and Familia, who both settled for significantly less than the MLBTR estimate. It could be that the model doesn’t do a particularly good job on relievers. Or it could be that the unknown factor of each of their roles coming into the year due to Familia’s likely suspension had both relievers’ camps unsure. Or it could just be a coincidence that the two that were off the most were both relievers.

With that in mind, here are the estimates for the 2018 salaries for arbitration-eligible Mets. Again, players are listed in order of service time and dollar figures are in millions:

Nori Aoki – $6.3
Tommy Milone – $2.2
Harvey – $5.9
AJ Ramos – $9.2
Familia – $7.4
Wheeler – $1.9
d’Arnaud – $3.4
Flores – $3.7
deGrom – $9.2
Syndergaard – $1.9
Hansel Robles – $1.0

It’s hard to imagine the Mets tendering Aoki. Milone seems like a long shot, too. And it’s up for debate if the Mets would be interested in bringing back Robles for a seven-figure salary. But that leaves a minimum of eight players that the Mets have to either settle with or go to arbitration.

The 2017 salary estimates totaled $43.325 million while the actual expenditure by the Mets on those 10 players was $38.9 million or 90 percent of the estimated cost. If we apply that same discount to the eight MLBTR estimates for 2018, we get the Mets on the hook for $38.34 million.

We know the Mets have very few long-term contracts already on the books. There’s Yoenis Cespedes at $29 million, David Wright at $20 million and Juan Lagares at $6.5 million. If we add those three players to the discounted total of the MLBTR estimates for eight guys, that brings us to $93.84 million. But there are also two club options that the team is likely to pick up. Jerry Blevins at $7 million and Asdrubal Cabrera at $8.5 million. Adding those two in and we’re at $109.34 million.

Depending on how you view Wright, that’s the salary for 12/13 players on the Opening Day roster.

No one knows what the 2018 Opening Day payroll will be. Last year it was $154,437,460 and Sandy Alderson indicated that he went above what was originally forecasted to reach that number. Coming off a year where they didn’t make the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine that number going up. The most likely outcome is that it will go down. Let’s say $150 million for a nice round number, knowing full well that might be optimistic.

That leaves roughly $40 million to fill 11 or 12 slots. Now a great many of these will be at or near the major league minimum of $545,000, so that helps the crunch. The starting first baseman, shortstop and one outfielder, the backup catcher, at least one backup infielder and backup outfielder and at least two relievers. But not knowing the roles of players makes it hard to get much firmer than that. Is Flores a starter or reserve? Same question for Lagares. What are the roles for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman? Are the injured starters ready to open the season or will they require a DL stint, meaning another player – and salary – has to be added to the equation?

Since we’re optimists here, let’s say that all of the injured players besides Wright are ready to go on Opening Day. Furthermore, let’s say that Lagares is a starter and Flores is a reserve. That leaves the following players at or near minimum wage:

SP – Steven Matz
RP – Gsellman, Lugo
C – Kevin Plawecki
INF – Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, Reserve
OF – Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo

Assigning those nine each a salary of $550,000 brings us to $114.29 million for 21 players. Or roughly $36 million for four spots – two relievers, an outfielder and either a 2B or 3B, depending on where they play Cabrera.

Now you can certainly make different assumptions but they’re not going to make the numbers any more favorable unless you make Flores a starter or decline the options on Blevins and/or Cabrera. And if you have the Mets in the market for a starting pitcher, that only makes it tougher.

39 comments for “A look at the Mets 2018 payroll with MLBTR arbitration numbers

  1. Jimmy P
    October 11, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Good piece. Helpful.

    I think they need to add a starting pitcher to the list of expenses, probably swapping out the reliever. I would love for the Mets to add two high-quality arms to the staff.

    They might actually go for Aoki after all. I wouldn’t, but they might.

    Would very much love to see the club get a 2B who can give them plus defense.

    Sandy does not make many transactions and is always reluctant to trade ML players. But I think that’s part of the solution here, too. Swap some bodies using combination of ML and minor league talent to bring back an impact player or two.

    Sandy tends to prefer to just go shopping.

    • October 11, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Thanks.

      The scary thing to me about this is how you can see it unfolding that they go down $15-$20 million from last year’s payroll. They make Flores a starter, spend money to bring in one reliever and one outfielder and call it a day.

      FWIW, I don’t want to see Aoki back. In past years he would have been a nice fit and he certainly hit well in his Mets stint. But he looked awful in the outfield and I’d rather not see him taking time away from Nimmo.

      • Jimmy P
        October 11, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        And again, to beat this dead horse, they spent $135 million (roughly) last season and are still talking about tightening the budget. If they want to stay close to $130-$135, we’re dead in the water.

        Historically, that’s how the Wilpons respond to down years. They tighten up. That is, the exact opposite of how they should respond. They see the budget as being reactive rather than proactive, an effect rather than a cause. It’s maddening.

        I look at the Dodgers. Yes, ownership spent a ton of money, but they are #1 in attendance, fans are thrilled. All because Selig pushed McCourt out of ownership but at same time wrapped his arms around the Wilpons, gave them Sandy, and supported them when he should have forced them out for lack of funds. They are sitting on a $2 billion property and running it like a popsicle stand.

        • Metsense
          October 11, 2017 at 2:13 pm

          And all the Popsicles melted in the heat of the summer of 2017!

          • Jimmy P
            October 11, 2017 at 2:21 pm

            Hey, freezers are expensive!

  2. October 11, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Since Wright just had another procedure done on his back I think its safe to assume SA tries to either sign or trade for a dependable starter until Wright comes back (if ever). So that may be 8-10 million dollars to add. It was reported that Reyes wants to come back it should be at a salary 1/10 of what he was getting this past season. We as Met fans will need a manager who will have the ability to mix and match players. I just don’t know where Flores fits in any defensive scheme. First base on occasion when a tough lefty is on the mound to rest Smith. That’s it. Maybe trade for Kinsler? Detroit is looking to rebuild. Milone and Aoki should be non-tendered. So many question marks this off season for the FO to address. Let’s hope for the best.

  3. Chris F
    October 11, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Its a very tenuous position to be in. They just bought the Chiefs too, so its worth expecting reduced payroll. I think the starting day salary will be between 135-140M$.

    It leaves little room for any significant improvements because so much needs to be addressed. Cabrera is passable at 2B, but not at 3B. Flores is semi-passable at 2B, but best fits at 1B (really DH). So 3B is open. Im exhausted by Wright, and I would address 3B as a top need. That could eat most of the remaining dollars. I would not look to bring back any outfielders at this point, Ces, Conforto, Lagares, Nimmo need to be the primary depth. It leaves only a few $ for a starter or reliever.

  4. Metsense
    October 11, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    The Mets should not tender Aoki or Milone for an estimated savings of $8.5 Robles should be tendered unless there is a forty man roster crunch. Your keen analysis that there is $36 to spend is a fair starting point provided that the payroll is $150.
    A free agent starting pitcher like Alex Cobb, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Vargas, Lance Lynn or Andrew Cashner should come in at less than 20.MM. (the MLBTR have not come out with their Free Agent stock watch yet). The priority should be to stabilize the rotation. It will still leave $16 MM for the rest
    Looking at the list, AJ Ramos sticks out as a very expensive set up man. They would be better off signing two 6-7MM relievers for an extra $4MM then to put the money toward Ramos.
    Lagares ,Flores and Harvey do have trade value. Trading these three, whom the Mets have to find ways to accomodate on the roster, would relieve some angst and maybe bring in some improvement in players or salary relief.

  5. Rabbit
    October 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    OMG,135 million payroll means Cabrera on third,Flores on second! HArd to contend with that defense. I see them signing two or three pitchers, trying to trade Flores and Lagares and ending up with a 500 team provided two of Harvey,Familia, Matz, and Wheeler bounce back.

  6. Name
    October 12, 2017 at 1:51 am

    I’m a little skeptical of the numbers the MLBTR model has spit out, probably because a bunch of these players have such an injury-riddled history.
    I’m most surprised at how high Wheeler/TDA/Flores are projected to get. If they’re actually asking for something to close to those numbers, they are all high non-tender candidates in my book.

    This is my best guess
    Harvey – $6.0
    AJ Ramos – $9.5
    Familia – $9.0
    Wheeler – $1.1
    d’Arnaud – $2.5
    Flores – $2.8
    deGrom – $8.5
    Syndergaard – $2.6
    Hansel Robles – $0.9

    Even after making significant adjustments, I get almost the same total though.

    • October 12, 2017 at 7:54 am

      My initial reaction was that it was too much for Ramos but you have him getting even more. Of course, we can’t ignore the power of the Save number. I’m not sure how much role can be argued in the hearing. Of course we saw last year that the model was off the most on the relievers and what they settled for, so it will be interesting to see how much both Ramos and Familia end up getting.

      I thought Syndergaard was low but I suppose he’s making it as a Super Two and that’s got to be factored in.

      • Name
        October 12, 2017 at 11:13 am

        The number i came up for Ramos was using Jim Johnson as a comp.

        Ramos : 346 games, 346.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 99 saves
        Johnson (up to 2013): 360 games : 400 IP, 3.11 ERA, 122 saves

        Both had made the AS team once, though Johnson had racked up some CY young and MVP votes in a season too.

        Ramos made $3.4 and $6.55 in year 1 and 2 of arbitration.
        Johnson made $2.6 and $6.5 in year 1 and 2 of arbitration. He ended up getting $10 in year 3.

        I subtracted $0.5 from the $10 because Ramos had less saves and innings, although a case could be made to subtract more, but i felt like with the crazy prices being paid for relievers these days, Ramos could justify the higher amount.

        • October 12, 2017 at 12:26 pm

          Interesting stuff.

          I’m going to assume that Johnson thru 2013 was the same service time as Ramos thru 2017. In arb 1, Johnson was coming off a 9-Save season while Ramos was coming off a 32-Save effort. I’m surprised the difference wasn’t greater.

          In arb 2, Johnson was coming off a 51-Save season while Ramos had 40 and arb 3 it’s Johnson 50, Ramos 27.

          I’ve got to think that Johnson, coming off back-to-back seasons where he led the league in Saves, is more than half a million more valuable than Ramos.

          My totally unscientific guess is that he ends up with $7.5-$8 million

          • Name
            October 12, 2017 at 6:09 pm

            My argument for $7.5-$8 being too low would be Clippard and Reed, two non-closers who got more than that.

            Clippard got $5.875 2nd arb, $8.3 3rd arb
            Reed got $5.3 2nd arb and $7.75 3rd arb.

            You would think that Ramos, who had a 2nd arb salary 1 mil higher than both of them, and 27 saves in the season before 3rd arb (while Reed/Clippard both had just 1) and more career saves overall, would be able to at minimum top both of them in 3rd arb. So i’d put the hard floor at $8.5, but still think he’ll be able to get more than $9.

  7. Steevy
    October 12, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    We are looking at another crap low budget team next year.Meanwhile it is on to the ALCS for the Yankees.Sigh.

    • October 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      The Yanks have Girardi. We have ? Excuse me. We had TC

  8. TJ
    October 12, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    We as Met fans are conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to react to team payroll. None of us know where they will go with the figure, but we can take an overview approach. Given that the system has been thinned out, and the major league roster is riddled with health uncertainties, it is rather easy to conclude that if they truly plan on competing in 2018, they will need to make a commitment to spending on 2018 payroll. Syracuse expenditure not withstanding, ownership needs to do what it takes. No number needs to be put on it, but that $150 hard ceiling, which likely won’t land a club in the top half, is utter nonsense.

  9. October 13, 2017 at 3:06 am

    You can deduce from the fire sale the team had at the trade deadline that the 150 million+ payroll for this season was based on if the team was still in contention for a playoff spot. 150 million was just an opening number. Once the FO (Wilpons) decided there was no chance to make a run at a spot why else they did dump salary? The team was still drawing well. They sacrificed attendance knowing in the long run better to get something out of a group of players they were not going to sign or give a qualifying offer (Walker excluded). And one final note. If the Wilpons have insurance based on the number of games David Wright plays they probably received about 15 million (75%) from the insurance company. So 150 is meaningless.

  10. Eraff
    October 13, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Adding a Pitcher makes sense if you feel you can compete..and that would indicate more spending/more moves in the preseason.

    I don’t believe it’s possible or wise to ever believe you’ve finished a team with Hot Stove moves, but I’d like them to have a competitive and projectible roster by february—one that can be tweaked as the season moves along.

    Otherwise, Trade Jake, Ramos, Familia, Flores while they have good value…address the rest as they produce and build value…Quickly build a younger talent base.

    They must make a decision of whether they can compete, or whether they’re in rebuild.

    • Jimmy P
      October 13, 2017 at 8:47 am

      The decision has been made. They kept Blevins, Cabrera, anybody with an option year. They traded for Ramos. They decided not to crater.

      It’s the old cycle. They are going to “try” to compete, but not very hard.

      If it all breaks right — and hey, it could! — they have meaningful games in September and a shot at the second WC.

      The Twins made the WC with, what?, 82 wins. That’s the great dream.

      The Mets want to be “in it,” but not necessarily to “win it.”

      People ask why Sandy still has a job, and this is the reason. He’s been able to keep an illegitimate ownership afloat, stabilized, and seemingly professional while they slide into the middle regions for payroll.

      Even that everybody quotes $150 all over the place is a con. They spent far, far less. This is not a group that cares about winning.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 14, 2017 at 9:40 am

        Perfectly said.

  11. Eraff
    October 13, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Jim…what did they not do in 2016 spending wise? They had a contending team and added payroll along the way.

    For 2017, they were well positioned prior to injuries. They were ready to contend and add…contending never happened….so they moved contracts for talent. Your Pining about not adding Money to the deals is based, really, on Nothing…just as the critique of the returns on the trades.

    You can’t bitch about lack of arms and then complain when they trade Major League Expirings for young cheap arms—Jimmie–It makes No Sense!!! Of course when you trade Now for Later you save Money–It has never happened otherwise!

    Talent location and development—these are bitchable issues.

    • October 13, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      I agree that they were positioned to win and add salary, just like they did the previous two seasons.

      I disagree that they moved contracts for talent. They moved contracts for fungible bodies at one position. They prioritized reducing salary over adding talent. A defensible business strategy, perhaps, but one that appears to have been strictly for the good of the owners rather than the good of the team.

      • Eraff
        October 13, 2017 at 6:58 pm

        I don’t understand the unit of meaurement you guys are applying to their trades. Is it the Positions of the Players??? …the Qualitiy of the returns? Weren’t they just floating in a Flotsam Trade Market?

        • October 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm

          I don’t believe it’s something that can be accurately measured so I’m not sure units is the right way to approach it. But semantics aside, it’s my belief that not one of the guys they acquired will be as good as Hansel Robles.

          They didn’t do themselves any favor by restricting return to righty relievers.

          But the real return was in dollars saved, not players acquired. Like you said, it wasn’t a great trade market. It’s among the possibilities that $$$ was the best return available.

          My initial reaction is great trades for the Wilpons, not so great for the Mets. Unless they turn around and reinvest all that money into 2018 payroll. But it seems likely that Opening Day payroll will be down from what it was in 2017.

  12. Eraff
    October 13, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I believe you’re in the abyss of well justified Low Expectations. Now for Later Trades are what they are—and they do drop dollars—was the Cleveland supposed to trade you a well paid present contributor?

    They picked up some better than Lottery Ticket guys….and your Robles comment is visciously funny.

    • October 14, 2017 at 12:19 am

      No, absolutely not – no team should have been expected to trade a present contributor.

      What should have been expected was to get someone who would place on a top 10 prospect list. The Mets have, at best, a middle of the road farm system. The highest-rated guy they got in the deals ranked 21st (Jacob Rhame) according to MLB Pipeline
      http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=nym

      The guys they got were generic C-level prospects, which are a dime a dozen in every organization.

      • Metsense
        October 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

        The Mets farm system needed replenishing and the lost Summer of 17 was an ideal opportunity so do so. They had already budgeted expenditures for the season so that money should have been considered spent. They should have paid the salaries of those traded players and should have received better prospects back. This was the way to go to get controllable inexpensive players with a better upside for the future. Instead they decided to pocket the money and get C-level prospects. If the starting payroll was $154 MM then those “savings” should be applied to the 2018 payroll and it should be near $170 MM. This apparently is not going to be the case and as a fan I feel cheated.

        • October 14, 2017 at 9:15 am

          But you’re assuming the Wilpons had the money even if the team was not in contention. Isn’t it obvious they did not? Why else sacrifice attendance? Perhaps the insurance money from Wright’s contract doesn’t come in until after the season if its based on how many games he misses? Lastly why is everyone so consumed with what the opening day payroll was? It’s meaningless. At the end of the day the Mets payroll will come in about the same or less than 2016.

          • October 14, 2017 at 9:33 am

            The Opening Day payroll is far from meaningless.

            Instead, it’s a consistent, readily available measure of what the team thinks heading into the season. There should be an understanding from everyone that it’s likely to change during the year, depending on how things play out. If you have a good year, you’ll likely add payroll and vice-versa. Here are the Mets’ OD payroll numbers the last few years:

            2014 – $85 million
            2015 – $101 million
            2016 – $135 million
            2017 – $154 million.

            The 2014 payroll was down from the year before – they weren’t expecting great things. Next three years saw significant increases. If 2018 payroll drops $15 million or more – that will tell us something, too.

        • Jimmy P
          October 15, 2017 at 9:38 am

          Yes.

      • Eraff
        October 14, 2017 at 8:51 am

        A review of that trade market–The Actual trades that were made– would probably prove that our collective wishes for higher talent returns was not in that market.

  13. Eraff
    October 14, 2017 at 9:01 am

    It’s pretty much about “Next”….. I can only guess at their Intentions, and I’m not encouraged. Whatever those intentions may be, I am also not confident in their ability to make the sort of dynamic moves that are necessary.

    The two choices I see are Rebuild or Replenish…no in-betweens! I don’t see them capable of that stark decision, much less the commitment and Management talent to do either well.

    • Jimmy P
      October 15, 2017 at 9:39 am

      They have decided to go “in-between.”

      Ownership is a disgrace. I don’t understand why you are doing back flips to defend the Wilpons.

  14. Chris F
    October 14, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Metsense, August 27, 2011

    “This team can’t stay as is. The starting pitching is too mediocre and the relief pitching is horrible. The defense has too many square pegs in round holes. The LF profiles as a platoon player. There are many young players that seem to be good players but are any of them potential all stars? We are competing against the two best teams in the NL in our own division so we have to surpass at least one of them to make the playoffs. This roster is not enough to do that. If the Wilpons can’t infuse the money to right this ship then it is time for new ownership.”

    Welcome to 2012…check that….2018

    Ever the wise sage Metsense!!!!

    • October 15, 2017 at 1:51 am

      Chris I beg to differ. The NL West is the best division in National League. The D’Backs and Rockies surely are better than the Marlins. The Mets are only competing against themselves. They consistently self destruct. The Marlins are just as bad as the Braves. And the Phillies are the Phillies. I do agree that the team has more question marks then every day players. Can we at least go back to emphasize defense? Maybe our pitchers wont have to be constantly extended next year with so many 4 out innings

  15. Eraff
    October 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    “The LF Profiles a a Platoon Player”……!!!?????? Get some Air!!!!

  16. October 15, 2017 at 10:56 am

    The piece that Chris F. quoted from Metsense was 2011. The idea was that the overall situations then and now – roster holes and ownership that won’t spend enough money – are similar, not that the strengths and weaknesses are identical.

    • Chris F
      October 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      😉

      Although our Pipeline was much stronger then…

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