Anyone who’s watched the Mets this century has at one point or another lamented the money the club has had on the injured list. Sometimes, like in 2009, it’s just the sheer number and while others, like in 2019, it’s the high-dollar value. This past season, the Mets had three players who combined to produce just 8 PA yet got paid $52.5 million. It’s tough to compete when one-third of your payroll gives you virtually nothing.

But how does that compare to the rest of MLB? Is there an “acceptable” amount of dollars to be unavailable due to injury? Let’s find out. Below is a list of players who missed two months or more due to injury, while making at least $5 million per year. Both the time frame and the dollar value were chosen to be significant. A team could have a highly-paid guy miss six weeks and not show up on this list. But you can miss six weeks and still have 500 PA. You can say that two months is arbitrary and there will be no argument. But you have to put a line in there somewhere. In addition to being somewhat arbitrary, please note that this list is also somewhat subjective.

For instance Fielder is listed for the Rangers and not the Tigers, even though both clubs paid him not to play in 2019. Fielder was traded from Detroit to Texas and they sent some money to offset the salary. Fielder played three years for the Rangers before having his career end early due to neck surgery. Reed is listed because of his thumb injury, although you could make a case that it was ineffectiveness at Triple-A which ended his Twins career. And there are other cases. If you were to complete a list, you might have different people on/off than what’s listed here.

The list was created using the Opening Day payroll number from Cot’s. It was supplemented with Sportrac to get a dollar figure for guys like Gennett, who opened the year on the IL and then was later traded to another team. The Reds were not responsible for 100% of Gennett’s salary. His number was derived from Sportrac.

Team Player Salary Playing Time Production
BAL Alex Cobb $14.00 12.1 IP (-0.6 fWAR)
BAL Mark Trumbo $13.50 31 PA (-0.3 fWAR)
BOS Nathan Eovaldi $17.00 67.2 IP (-0.3 fWAR)
BOS Dustin Pedroia $15.13 21 PA (-0.4)
BOS Steve Pearce $6.25 99 PA (-0.9)
BOS Eduardo Nunez $5.00 174 PA (-1.0)
NYY Giancarlo Stanton $26.00 72 PA 0.4
NYY Jacoby Ellsbury $21.14 0 PA 0
NYY Didi Gregorius $11.75 344 PA 0.9
NYY Dellin Betances $7.25 0.2 IP 0.1
CLV Corey Kluber $17.20 35.2 IP 0.6
CLV Carlos Carrasco $9.75 80 IP 1
DET Tyson Ross $5.75 35.1 IP 0
DET Jordy Mercer $5.25 271 PA 0.6
KCR Salvador Perez $11.20 0 PA 0
MIN Addison Reed $8.50 0 IP 0
HOU Joe Smith $8 25 IP 0.4
HOU Collin McHugh $5.80 74.2 IP 0.5
LAA Justin Upton $18 256 PA (-0.2)
LAA Zack Cozart $12.67 107 PA (-0.9)
LAA Matt Harvey $11 59.2 IP (-0.3)
LAA Cody Allen $8.50 23 IP (-0.7)
OAK Stephen Piscotty $7.33 393 PA 0.6
SEA Felix Hernandez $27.86 71.2 IP (-0.1)
TEX Prince Fielder $9 0 PA 0
ATL Darren O’Day $9.00 5.1 IP 0.1
ATL Ender Inciarte $5.70 230 PA 0.9
MIA Martin Prado $15 260 PA (-1.2)
NYM Yoenis Cespedes $29 0 PA 0
NYM David Wright $15 0 PA 0
NYM Jed Lowrie $8.50 8 PA (-0.1)
PHI David Robertson $10 6.2 IP (-0.1)
PHI Tommy Hunter $9 5.1 IP 0.2
PHI Pat Neshek $7.75 18 IP (-0.3)
WSN Ryan Zimmerman $18 190 PA 0.1
CHC Ben Zobrist $12.50 176 PA 0.2
CHC Brandon Morrow $9 0 IP 0
CIN Scooter Gennett $6.57 72 (-0.4)
CIN Alex Wood $10 35.2 IP (-0.2)
MIL Corey Knebel $5.13 0 0
PIT Francisco Cervelli $11.50 123 PA (-0.2)
PIT Corey Dickerson $5.71 142 PA 0.7
PIT Chris Archer $7.67 119.2 0.7
PIT Gregory Polanco $6.10 167 PA (-0.2)
STL Jedd Gyorko $5.38 62 PA (-0.2)
STL Brett Cecil $7.75 0 0
STL Luke Gregerson $5.00 5.2 IP 0.1
ARI Taijuan Walker $5.03 1 IP 0
COL Mike Dunn $7 17.2 IP 0
LAD Rich Hill $18.67 58.2 IP 0.9
SDP Garrett Richards $7 8.2 IP 0
SFG Johnny Cueto $21 16 IP 0

By this count, there were 52 players who missed at least two months of the season while pulling down a salary of at least $5 million. That seems surprising to me, as my guess would have been more players to have fit the guidelines. Interestingly, there were three teams – Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox – not to have a player on our list. But not that it was all sunshine and lollipops for these franchises. Toronto paid the Dodgers $16.4 million to take Russell Martin off their hands, Tampa Bay sent $14.5 million to the Giants to do likewise with Evan Longoria and the White Sox spent around $8 million to watch Yonder Alonso stink for them for three months, only to watch him thrive once he was dealt to the Rockies.

As for the Mets, Robinson Cano does not make the list because he missed 6-7 weeks on the IL, missing our two-month guideline. And Brandon Nimmo missed enough time but did not pull down a $5 million salary.

Now that we have the individual players, let’s do another chart, this one showing the effect on a team level. And we’ll add in Opening Day payroll, to see how much of it was lost to significant injury time. These numbers come from Sportrac, since they already had it in one place and Cot’s did not. There are discrepancies between the two numbers but expediency wins out here.

Team Payroll Injured $ Percent Lost
PIT $72.7 $35.98 49.49%
BAL $73.4 $27.50 37.47%
NYM $160.5 $52.50 32.71%
NYY $223.0 $70.14 31.45%
LAA $161.3 $50.28 31.17%
CLV $124.9 $26.75 21.42%
MIA $75.6 $15.00 19.84%
SEA $144.4 $27.86 19.29%
RSX $229.2 $43.38 18.93%
PHI $160.2 $26.75 16.70%
CIN $128.4 $16.57 12.90%
SFG $178.6 $21.00 11.76%
KCR $104.8 $11.20 10.69%
WSN $172.3 $18.00 10.45%
STL $174.3 $18.13 10.40%
ATL $143.9 $14.70 10.22%
CHC $221.6 $21.50 9.70%
DET $114.6 $11.00 9.60%
LAD $201.6 $18.67 9.26%
HOU $168.8 $13.80 8.18%
OAK $93.4 $7.33 7.85%
TEX $130.8 $9.00 6.88%
MIN $125.3 $8.50 6.78%
SDP $104.3 $7.00 6.71%
COL $157.2 $7.00 4.45%
ARI $118.9 $5.03 4.23%
MIL $135.9 $5.13 3.77%
TOR $111.4   0.00%
WSX $91.4   0.00%
TBR $64.2   0.00%
Total $4,166.9 $589.70 14.15%

The Mets had the second-most significant dollars lost to the IL and the third-highest percent of their payroll sidelined via injury. The average percent lost by this accounting was 14.15 % but only 10 of the 30 clubs exceeded this number. Of those 10, only one team made the playoffs, thanks to their huge overall payroll and remarkable play by that team’s reserves who were pressed into action.

Judging by 2019 numbers, the odds are stacked against you making the playoffs if you have an above-average dollars lost to the IL. Certainly the Mets hope that Lowrie will contribute this year and possibly Cespedes, too, although no one should be holding their breath on that one. With Wright a sunk cost and Cespedes likely to be that way, too, the Mets will likely be high on this list again next year. One of their keys will be not adding anyone else, with the possible exceptions of Cano and Jeurys Familia.

11 comments on “Yoenis Cespedes and significant dollars lost to the IL

  • Mike W

    This is a really good article. Thanks for writing it.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks Mike!

      It’s a (not so) quick and dirty way to look at the issue. And a painful reminder of what we’re missing with Cespedes out.

      • Mike W

        Cespedes is a disaster and boat anchor. MLB should be more like the NFL. Non guaranteed money. Could have cut off Cespedes a long time ago. And Lowerie, he never showed up for work.

  • José

    Editor’s Note – If you have something to say that’s not tied to the article, please use the Open Thread.

    • José

      Nevermind – it was insufficiently important

  • TJ

    Nice job.

    Some observations –
    1. The Rockies…what was their excuse for 2019?
    2. If my math is ok, Giancarlo got over $350k/plate appearance. I could DH one game, take a collar, and retire. Geez.
    3. $600 mil as an industry, wow. I’d love to see a graph of DL pay by player age as an absolute dollar and as a percentage of total pay for that age group. I’m certain someone in the industry would have it and just another reason why clubs are shying away from past prime free agents.
    4. Cespedes remains the biggest 2020 issue for the Mets. He can’t simply be dismissed since his health status has a huge impact on offseason spending. Very lame statement of his status by Brodie this week. Perhaps the lack of transparency means some type of behind the scenes settlement.

    • Brian Joura

      With the Rockies, if you guess “pitching,” you’ll be right many more times than not. Turns out their bullpen was even worse than the Mets’ pen.

  • MattyMets

    Nicely compiled, Brian. My takeaways:

    – Of the teams that were the most impacted by injuries only the Yankees were able to overcome and make the playoffs. You could chalk this up to payroll flexibility, but it’s more a tribute to their system that keeps churning out guys like Gio Urshela.
    – At least we’re not paying Prince Fielder.
    – I have to believe there’s a lot we don’t know about the Cespedes situation. How serious are the injuries? What, if anything, has been negotiated? Are they talking to the players association and league about contract violations? So many questions.

    • Chris B

      Weird that it was posted and then quickly deleted by Endy?

      • Brian Joura

        Yeah, trying to figure out why. If the team didn’t want it out there, they wouldn’t have let MetsBlog put it up.

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