What if the Mets had a $190 million payroll?

When Marc Carig wrote the piece in late summer about how all was not rosy with Terry Collins’ stewardship, some fans felt it was nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by the owners. Well, now Carig is taking aim at the owners. So, apparently one of three things is true.

A) Carig was not operating under the guidelines of anyone but his own sense of the story
B) Carig was operating previously under orders but didn’t like how that went so now he’s gone rogue
C) The Wilpons are playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers and they’ve orchestrated this to throw everyone off the scent

The answer to that isn’t as interesting to me as the overall theme of the piece – that the Wilpons would be better off if they were more transparent about the team’s payroll. Among other things, Carig indicates that the front office itself isn’t as sure about the payroll as one would think. For those who’ve been following this story for awhile, you’ll recognize that refrain as Howard Megdal made the same claim before the team made the World Series. The more things change…

But I think it’s naïve to believe that the fans would be happy with transparency.

From my observations the only thing that’s going to placate the fans is if the Mets return to have a top five payroll. If given the choice between transparency and a $140 million payroll or a never-ending string of lies along with a payroll closer to the Red Sox than the Rays, most would opt for the latter.

So, let’s play make believe and placate the fans (ha!) and assume that the Wilpons read the Carig piece and make the decision to be both transparent and aggressive. In this unreal reality, Sandy Alderson announces to the world that the Mets will run a $190 million payroll for 2018. That’s significantly higher than what we’ve ever witnessed, while still keeping the owners from having to pay any luxury tax. Let’s also assume that this makes the fans happy.

Here on December 17, how would the Mets allocate these new-found funds?

To me, the answer is still the same as it was on the day that the 2017 season ended. And that’s how much faith do you/should you have in a return for health for the starting pitchers? Last year, despite all the injuries to the hitters, the Mets’ offense was not the problem once Michael Conforto was moved into the leadoff spot. At least not until they sold off their players. Instead, the problem was starting pitching that both stunk in its own right and also contributed to blowing out the relievers.

So, how do you proceed? Did you consider only Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard as viable, sign two starters and then let half a dozen guys battle it out for the fifth starter’s job? That doesn’t seem like an awful plan. But it creates issues, too. It still leaves uncertainty as to who will claim that SP5 job, there’s only so much room in the bullpen for guys who lose out on it and are you really going to send a heallthy, say, Steven Matz to the minors, assuming he has an option left?

And who do you spend the money on? Do you pay top dollar for Yu Darvish and hope that his last few starts of the playoffs mean nothing? Do you opt for Jake Arrieta and hope that the first three months of 2017 is not a harbinger of things to come? Do you spend on Lance Lynn and hope that his run of pitching in the middle of 2017 is what he’ll give going forward?

Then how do you treat the infield? Does finding a guy to start at 1B instead of Dominic Smith become a top priority, instead of a nice thing if it can happen? Do you go the trade or free agency route to fill 2B/3B or do you upgrade both and make Asdrubal Cabrera a well-paid reserve? And in the outfield do you become a player for J.D. Martinez, the best bat (and likely the worst glove) available? Or do you look at a CF option and permanently give up the ghost on Juan Lagares?

If given this financial freedom, my approach would be to attack the infield first and let those decisions help make others on the team. And I’d look first at the trade market, determining what the cost would be to acquire both Manny Machado and Brian Dozier. It’s likely those trades would thin out the starting pitcher ranks and likely relieve the team of Dominic Smtih, too.

Machado and Dozier would add approximately $26 million to the payroll, depending upon the former’s arbitration award. My guesstimate has the new payroll proclamation from the owners allowing $73 million to spend. So, we would have around $47 million left to address 1B, the OF and pitching.

First base would be the last position to address, with the belief that the same market forces that undervalued power last offseason will do likewise with at least one or two guys this go-round, too. And that someone, whether that’s Lucas Duda or Logan Morrison or whoever, will be willing to sign a cheap deal once reality sets in that not many teams are giving out Carlos Santana packages and that supply outstrips demand.

So, do you go pitching or outfield?

It seems to me that pitching has to be next, partly because our two trades probably cost the team at least three guys who were previously in the starting pitching mix. My preference is Arrieta but the question is if one pitcher is enough. And how much do you have to allocate for two starters? Is $40 million enough to land both Arrieta and Lynn? Let’s say that it is. And that the shopping spree finishes with $7 million for Morrison to man first base. Would you be happy with this team?

C – TDA
1B – Morrison
2B – Dozier
3B – Machado
SS – Rosario
LF – Cespedes
CF – Lagares/Nimmo
RF – Conforto
SP – deGrom
SP – Syndergaard
SP – Arrieta
SP – Lynn
SP – Harvey
RP – Familia, Ramos, Swarzak, Blevins, Robles, Lugo, Montero

Of course, there’s a bunch of different ways that $73 million could be spent. The above version has the issue of three infielders on the last year of their contract, no true center fielder if Lagares doesn’t improve offensively, a bullpen that didn’t get allocated any new funds, no upgrade at catcher and a rotation that still has injury concerns.

It’s miles better than what the team has now or what it’s likely to start 2018 with, too. But it’s still not without issues, most notably depending on healthy seasons from Cespedes, Conforto and Syndergaard – guys who each had problems staying on the field a season ago.

21 comments for “What if the Mets had a $190 million payroll?

  1. TJ
    December 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Brian,
    As usual, a solid piece that provokes some thought on what has become somewhat of a broken record issue.

    First off, kudos to Mr. Carig. Frankly, I feel like he put into words and published in a major NY publications my sentiments and those of many Met fans/customers alike. I have hung with this team for almost half a century, and I gave this ownership the benefit of doubt, even through the combination of the great recession/Madoff years where they were in true financial trouble. However, that is in the past, regardless of what anyone want to project about their finances. Being an MLB franchise in the biggest market today in 2017 and being unable (or should I say unwilling) to invest players among the top third of franchises is simply not believable, regardless of debt position/stadium costs or whatever.

    So, a few follow up points for Brian –
    Again, I think this article, like Matty’s earlier, is mixing some issues. As does Alderson’s incredibly insulting remark to stop worrying about payroll. The exact amount of money to spend, When, what and how it is spent is not the main issue. The main issue is commitment to winning and to the paying customer, who is paying very high prices for the product.

    The constant and continued behavior of the GM in regards to ability to improve the team through spending only makes things worse and worse. We fans may be addicted to baseball and the Mets, but we aren’t fools. The Wilpons, through their behavior, and Alderson, as their front man, play the fan base for fools.

    Any fan paying attention understands that the highest payroll does not insure winning. But when the overall state of a franchise requires spending to improve the product (due to lack of graduating prospects or trade opportunities), that means increase spending, or at least invest to the level of the previous year (which only ranked close to the middle of franchises).

    What I want as a fan is a team that is built to compete for the division title, from an objective point of view. Whether it is a $190 million payroll or $100 million payroll I could care less.

    This roster has needs that can be improved through moderate spending that would leave the team somewhere in the 8-10th ranking. Lets say likely an opening day roster payroll of $160-$165 million, give or take. If the fan base had one iota of confidence in ownership, this would not be an issue, and no one would be caring about the number. Sure, we’d get a little antsy when Alderson left the winter meetings with only a journeyman middle reliever, but we would have much more confidence that he had a plan, and that waiting out the market would result in the ability to bring in higher quality talent within the budget. Maybe this will be the case for 2018. I sure hope it is. But with the conduct of these guys, and Jeffy in hiding, why should we think anything but that they are going on the cheap once again?

  2. Name
    December 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I’m in the minority when it comes to payroll: I don’t give a shit.

    Go root for the Yankees if that’s what you care about.

    • Jimmy P
      December 20, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Here’s an idea: You should go root for the Marlins, then you could really feel smug and superior.

  3. ReneNYM1
    December 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    I care about the payroll because it shows we are being cheap once again in the biggest market in the world.Your article is excellent and it’s why teams that spend don’t get it right either.What I hear all the time is this guy is out of our price range and we sacrifice getting a great player because we are cheap.The jury is still out maybe we don’t like the guys available and are trying to get bargains I like that too.Sandy is the one that threw out there the budget guidelines not us the fans.I would of loved to get Stanton and yes the Yankees getting him rubs salt in the wound of every Met fan who have to see this all the time from our crosstown rivals.That would of been money well spent..

  4. Hunter
    December 17, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    And what if my dad had given me a low interest million dollar loan when I was 21?

  5. Eraff
    December 17, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    You see owners who love there teams…and Love ’em or Hate ’em, You know they love they’re teams—George…Cuban..Jerruh Jones….. The Maras!!! Good…Bad..Whatever—they Love their teams, and it’s just right out there…First Thing!!!!

    so… then, there’s The Wilpons……..

    so, when you ask what would make Fans Happy….

  6. Eraff
    December 17, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Their: possesive…belonging to
    There: Location…. in, at, or to that place or position.
    They’re: “They are”

    Typo: Monkee on Keyboard

  7. Mike Walczak
    December 17, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    The last time the Yankees had a losing season it was 1992. Like them or not, the Steinbrenners want to win. Alderson is a puppet of the owners. I would not have gone after Stanton, because he is too risky. Way too much money for an injury risk. That being said, they have Sanchez, Bird, Judge and Hicks. They have Gleyber Torres who is a top MLB prospect and with Stanton, a trade chip with Clint Frazier. They need a pitcher, they go out and trade for Sonny Gray. They have Chance Adams waiting in the wings. They resign their Bartolo Colon with Sabathia.

    We have Rosario who should be a good player. After a short period the team has soured on Dominic Smith. Where is our Sanchez, Judge and Hicks? Oh, let’s not forget Didi Gregorious.

    It also hurts to have David Wright’s 20 million a year contract, even with the insurance policy.

    Let’s face it, the Wilpons dont really seem to care about building a great team in NYC. They should sell the team.

    I do like your article. I would not go for Machado because we will only have him for one year. We still need to get on base. I would sign Eduardo Nunez and trade for Cesar Hernandez and have them 1 2 in the order. I believe Lance Lynn is a good addition to the rotation. Still need a bat. How about Matz for Clint Frazier. And as much as I love him, lets give Wright his ride into the sunset into retirement.

  8. Chris F
    December 17, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    As I see it, the transparency aspect is really crucial. This doesnt mean ownership and teh FO need to lay out the detailed game plan, but htere has to absolutely be more that whatever the annual drivel we get from Alderson. The lack of being candid is so nauseating. I listen to a lot of MLB radio driving and while I work at my desk and have heard interviews with pretty much every GM (if you ask me, the Front Office show on Sunday mornings with Bowden and Duquette is super). The openness and excitement of virtually every GM is so clear, but Alderson, who almost never shows up on any of these shows is completely wooden and so artificial its hard to believe hes a GM. That is clear in the Carig article. As far as budget goes, I expect ups and downs, even in a big market. And the truth is I dont care. I just wish we had a better vision, never rebuilding, never going for it, never anything clear. It sucks.

  9. December 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Again, the payroll number is irrelevant: it’s about talent. Remember, the Mets’ payroll was top-3, but much of that went to paying Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez a departing Carlos Beltran, etc.

    I don’t mind if the payroll isn’t top-10 as long as there’s talent on the roster and the ability to retain it when it does start to get expensive.

    Right now, it looks like the Wilpons come up short in both of those departments.

  10. MattyMets
    December 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    I like what Carig said about being smart or willing to spend. You have to at least be one of those, and, at least at this moment, it appears the Mets are neither.

    I think moving the AAA affiliate back to the EST time zone and getting Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland were steps in the right direction. Swarzak looks like a good pickup too. But to really stay in the playoff hunt this team needs a leadoff hitter, #5 hitter, and another starter to lengthen the rotation and push Wheeler and Lugo to the pen. This could be done properly by adding Cain, Frazier and Lynn, which would lead to a payroll in the $160 – $170mm range, not elite, but at least above middle of the pack where they belong.

    Brian, your dream team looks good enough to win, even with Hansel Robles.

  11. Chris F
    December 18, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    I think you get 90ish wins with that roster Brian. Still finish in second place behind Nats, but quite competitive for WC1 or 2.

    The Nats are just unholy good.

  12. December 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    The Wilpons love their team. They just don’t care what you and I think about them as owners. It’s time to forget the past and look at the future. Getting Machado and extending him would go a long way to solving a major issue. Cain in center does the same. Back to reality. Looking to patch things every year is so disheartening as a fan. Hoping for this and hoping for that isn’t going to win many games in the long run. The window of opportunity has closed with so little to show for it. The sad part if the Wilpons had a plan they’re the only ones privy to it. Not even Alderson can perform miracles year in and year out. We kill SA for his lack of communicating with the fans and media. My thought was what competent GM is going to come to New York and work for the this frugal organization? I would take your line up in a heart beat Brian. Needless to say the Wilpons would not

  13. TexasGusCC
    December 19, 2017 at 12:15 am

    A few days ago, I gave an oath to never stand up for Alderson after seeing him give such a favorable account of his meager accomplishments at the winter meetings.

    And while we know Alderson is a proud individual that would never air out his laundry in public, I must step back from the two Carig articles and start to wonder. In late September, I wrote that the person Carig’s article helped the most is Alderson. Despite his huffing and puffing about firing whoever it was that leaked and blah blah, it obviously allowed Alderson to get rid of a manager that he didn’t want but Wilpon probably may have brought back and blamed injuries, as Collins was already talking about that in the press and certainly telling his BFF, Fred Wilpon.

    This latest article again seems to help Alderson in that it makes the Wilpons look bad for not opening the purse strings. Something is going on here; some kind of disconnect. At the all-star game in 2013, Fred Wilpon was asked if he thought Collins was in any danger of losing his job. Wilpon’s response was to laugh and exclaim that Collins is doing a great job “for what he has to work with”. I remember feeling that those words were a slap at Alderson’s work, and an open insult to his efforts that were meant to help these same Coupons. Don’t know what it is that keeps Alderson in place, other than he runs a tight ship, because ownership has never, ever, openly said a nice thing about him. In fact, they have supported Bozo the Manager much more than their own GM.

    When Alderson was hired, his message was “Moneyball with money”. Seven years later, I wonder if he doesn’t feel used and taken advantage of. He was promised an opportunity to be a winner again, but there are obviously obstacles to that and seven years later despite all the money the Coupons are making (and if we see it, imagine what Alderson knows), there isn’t a loosening of the budget.

    Both of Carig’s articles are very pro-Alderson, and Alderson must know who is feeding Carig. He wouldn’t do it himself, because that’s not how politics work. But, someone is helping Alderson. [Remember, there was even speculation that it was Jeff Wilpon because his dad was so stuck on Collins.] While Alderson may be a snobbish prick with a weird sense of humor, no one can blame him for wanting to win with the team he assembled. Maybe it’s Alderson’s salary that sits at Coupon’s craw; maybe it’s Alderson’s insistence that they stay out of the news. Whatever it is, I’m pretty certain Alderson looks around and sees what benefits other big market teams have and he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t a bit envious: ‘Enough already of the penny pinching!’

    The Wilpons will not sell until they build their big casino/shopping center/condominiums on the Shea Stadium grounds, which is granted them by ownership of the Mets. They could be sucking profits for that… we don’t know. But, there is a reason that there aren’t monies put into the Mets and only these Coupons know it. Hence, the article.

    • Jimmy P
      December 19, 2017 at 11:17 am

      I have always felt that Carig is in Alderson’s pocket. An obvious take curiously not mentioned in one of Brian’s 3 options.

      Sandy is spoon-feeding this stuff to him. That’s how this works.

  14. Mike Walczak
    December 19, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Now, there is no reason for the Mets to not sign Adrian Gonzalez. He can be had for the MLB minimum salary and can get some playing time. He could also be a big help to Dominic Smith.

    • TexasGusCC
      December 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Mike, I’m with that thought. However, the Mets are planning only four bench players and if one is a catcher, one is Flores, the other two are fourth and fifth outfielders, how do both Smith and Gonzalez fit onto the roster?

      • NormE
        December 19, 2017 at 3:08 pm

        If Adrian Gonzalez is cheap, I’d sign him and send Smith down. If AG doesn’t work out at least it sends a message to Smith that 1B is not a given and he has to work harder.
        If AG works out there is no need for a Flores platoon and he can be packaged as part of a trade. TJ can be used to give AG some rest.
        I’d sign Cain, thus freeing up Lagares/Nimmo as a possible part of a Flores package.
        Still have to work on 2B and BP depth.
        In truth, none of this matters if the starting pitching is not healthy.

        • TexasGusCC
          December 19, 2017 at 3:59 pm

          Norm, AGone was regressing with signs that his bat had slowed forcing his release from two organizations. Otherwise, someone would have traded for him, and even if the Braves ate the whole amount anyway, they would have gotten a warm body. Too, Smith is supposedly working his butt off this winter, and it sends a bad message to the other prospects when a top-100 MLB prospect wasn’t given an opportunity other than the initial cup of coffee. Most prospects will struggle with a promotion to MLB, and many have been sent down at least once.

  15. Eraff
    December 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    AG—Great player, but he’s a Just Say No

    • TJ
      December 19, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Agreed. He was a stud in his heyday but I’d rather roll the dice with Dom and Wilmer if they can’t bring in a RF/1B type as a combo insurance policy on Conforto & Smith..

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