Mets float the idea of attaching salary dump to a pre-arb player

Everyone wants to see the Mets make moves in the offseason, preferably big moves that add high-price talent to the roster. But there are a couple of problems with this mindset. First, the payroll counting estimated arbitration salaries is already higher than it’s ever been in team history. Cot’s estimates Opening Day payroll at $174.4 million, nearly $16 million higher than last season’s franchise high. Furthermore, Cot’s ranks this currently as the fifth-highest OD payroll in MLB. But the other problem is that these big moves generally haven’t worked for the Mets. Let’s review the biggest outlays of the past three years.

2019
Robinson Cano – that didn’t work
Jeurys Familia – disaster
Jed Lowrie – bust
Wilson Ramos – win (but people wouldn’t mind replacing him now)

2018
Jay Bruce – not good
Todd Frazier – slight win
Jason Vargas – poor
Anthony Swarzak – negative return

2017
Yoenis Cespedes – brutal
Neil Walker – slight loss
Jerry Blevins – slight win
Fernando Salas – hey at least it didn’t cost much

That’s three wins versus nine losses, with two of those (Cano, Cespedes) being absolute albatross deals. Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Mets took a year off from acquiring anyone major, took a deep breath and reexamined how they operated in the offseason. But we know that’s not going to happen.

Yesterday, news came out that the Mets were considering tying an unproductive salary like Familia’s or Lowrie’s to a pre-arb player like J.D. Davis or Dominic Smith. This would be a new approach to the offseason, one that’s at least worth considering. But the reaction of the fanbase was solidly against this line of thought.

If they make this type of move, only to immediately turn around and invest in the free agent market, perhaps it would be a mistake, given the team’s recent history in this regard. But what if they used this approach as part of a larger trade? Someone in cyberspace – don’t recall who it was but this is not my original idea – suggested a trade with Milwaukee with these particulars:

Davis, Familia, prospects
For
Lorenzo Cain and Josh Hader

The Brewers have already lost a few pieces from last year’s playoff team and are allegedly shopping Hader, who’s been one of the top relievers around the past two seasons. Obviously, this would depend upon who the prospect(s) would be. But let’s ignore that for a minute and concentrate on the other pieces of the deal.

Cain would give the Mets a CF that would allow them to play Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in the outfield corners. And Hader would add a top-notch lefty to their pen. But Cain dropped off considerably last year and is owed $51 million over the next three seasons, advancing yearly from $16 to $18 million. Plus, while Hader has been great the past two years, he did not exactly end on an up note, allowing runs in his last outing of the year and being the losing pitcher in the Wild Card game. Also, the last time the Mets spent big to get a premier relief pitcher, it didn’t work out too hot for them with Edwin Diaz. Do they want to go down this route again? Bottom line is that the Mets address two holes at the cost of around $4.3 million with this transaction.

From the Brewers’ POV, they take on Familia’s two-year commitment of $23.3 million to be rid of Cain’s $51 million. Along with the $27 million-plus savings, there’s the slight chance that Familia can rebound from last year’s debacle to give them something out of the pen, if nowhere near what they lose with Hader. The salary savings is significant but the Brewers still need to get 2020 value out of this type of deal. A team that’s made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons needs to aim higher, meaning that Davis and the minor leaguer(s) have to be ready to contribute at some point in the upcoming year. You figure they’d want pitching, even if the Mets don’t really have a likely stud in the top three levels of their farm system.

Would a mid-rotation upside guy like David Peterson, combined with a lottery ticket like Daison Acosta, be enough to make the Brewers bite? Would it be too much for the Mets to give up? Perhaps the biggest problem is that Davis doesn’t really fit the Brewers, unless they move him to first base. It might be wise to play him at the defensive position where he’d do the least amount of damage. But it seems like the Brewers want to move Ryan Braun to that position, instead.

To me, the more interesting idea is the concept of attaching a salary dump to a pre-arb guy in a trade, rather than the particular trade with the Brewers made up by an internet poster. In my mind, it’s an idea worth exploring and it’s good that the Mets are considering it. This might be the best way for the Mets to add talent to the 2020 team.

13 comments for “Mets float the idea of attaching salary dump to a pre-arb player

  1. December 4, 2019 at 10:32 am

    One thing you didn’t bring up in the proposed trade is how acquiring Cain for the back half of his deal would be following the same bad path of acquiring Cano for the back half of his deal.

    • December 4, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      That’s very true.

      Last year Cain was still a good defensive CF but his offensive numbers cratered. He’s old enough that we should expect his defensive numbers to drop. The question is how much, if any, of a bounceback offensively does he have?

      My expectation is that both he and Davis would put up a similar fWAR in 2020. Which would work out to a net win for the Mets, because you’d expect Nimmo & Conforto to be better in the corners. But is the $35 million owed Cain in 2021-22 worth it? Or, more importantly, is Hader worth it? 2018-19 Hader is worth it but we’ve seen this movie before with Diaz.

  2. Mike Walczak
    December 4, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I have no problem with this strategy, if……….

    The Mets reinvest the savings in a good player(s), who fill a need.

    If they trade Dom Smith or JD Davis in this deal, I am ok (maybe). I read a hint of something like this with McNeil. Dealing McNeil would be a huge mistake, unless we got something outstanding in a return. (I dont think Starling Marte is worth McNeil)

    I also say this about McNeil, because he is what I love in a ballplayer. He hustles, he almost won a batting title and he is extremely versatile.

  3. TJ
    December 4, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    While early hot stove internet “reporting” needs to be taken with a grain of salt, the Mets need to think in a wide open manner and cover every possible way to improve, as they need to make up ground on the top teams in their division, no less the NL. But…boy this has the same old aroma, and not a good one. Remaining objective, which is near impossible for longer term Met fans, they may find a partner that can provide a win win opportunity in pairing a money dump with a legit controllable player. The probability that this occurs is low, and the Jeffy/Brodie tandem will need to prove they can swim in the deep end of the pool given last winter’s debacles.

    The early going rates for free agents are scary when coupled with the perceived limited funding. My expectation is that come opening day the Mets will be well-positioned to come in 4th in the NL East…based on objectively looking at where they are now compared with the rest of the division, and how the rest of the division is doing business this winter. Excellent pitching always gives a team a chance, so any coupling deal should target pitching, not 30+ positional players.

  4. Mike Walczak
    December 4, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    The Mets had better start doing something. Cole Hamels just signed with the Braves. Wheeler just signed with the Phillies. The other teams in our division are making what they see as good moves to get better.

    We have a tough road. How do we leap past the Braves and Nats? I think we will have to put the Phillies in that category too. I don’t think that any of these teams are done yet either.

    It is going to be a very tough division next year.

    We will know more after the winter meetings.

    Have to keep our fingers crossed.

  5. Chris F
    December 4, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Just to be perfectly clear, 86 wins last season doesn’t meant the Mets are “almost” there for 2020. They could just as easily end up in 4th place if the team does not improve, possibly substantially.

  6. MattyMets
    December 4, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    A New York team with a competitive roster should not operate like this. Going over the threshold for the first time would not result in a huge penalty. The payroll will reset the following year.

    With the breaking news that ownership could be shifting, perhaps the Wilpons will be more open to backloaded contracts.

    • Chris F
      December 4, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      What I read is that if this were to happen it would be in 2025. Also interesting is that the person who might take majority stake (80 % is what I saw), is a hedge fund type, already who had to pay 1.8 billion dollars in penalties for insider trading. This has Madoff v 2.0 written all over it. Pure Mets!

      • Mike W
        December 4, 2019 at 8:22 pm

        Lets hope Cohen has a dream to have the Mets win a world series and throw his billions around to get good players, starting in 2020.

      • PeteNJ
        December 5, 2019 at 9:25 am

        Thanks for sharing Chris. Its an enlightening time line to the business dealings of Fred Wilpon. I am curious though as to why the 5 year timeline, and does something ramp up out of necessity soon enough? not sure a corrupt Wall Streeter is the answer, but if its the first step to get rid of ownership, i perhaps am willing to look the other way.

  7. NYM6986
    December 5, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Hamels signed for $18 million for one year – way out of their #5 starter price range. And they blew their chance to sign Wheeler to a 4/$60-$75 million deal earlier in 2019. With Nimmo’s speed why can’t they make him a better CF? They would be better off eating half of Cano’s deal and trying to ship him back to the AL, making it a $10 million plus savings. Why is it that they don’t know if Ces is coming back and his current condition? Same question for Lowrie. If both are healthy then there are two big spots filled for one more year before their salaries fall off. Hoping Hefner can earn his pay helping to correct our pen. So many ifs already and it’s not even January. Hard to watch our division rivals ramp up while we name a new bench coach. Gotta make a splash by adding a star. Davis and Smith are not starters and being under control makes trading them very attractive to other teams. I just don’t want to trade them for 30 something past their prime rejects from other teams. Bring on the new ownership or at least his additional money and bring on a star. A lifetime ago we picked up Hernandez and Carter in successive years, mixed it with some veteran players and brought home the 1986 title. Need a little DeJaVu!

    • December 5, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Just because the Mets traded for Cano doesn’t mean any other team in the league would do it. Plus, even if the Mets were to find a willing partner, Cano has a full no-trade clause that he allegedly only waved to come to NY.

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