How will Alderson handle arbitration and pre-arb players?

The big question involving the Mets 2011 roster as we transition to 2012 is whether or not to sign Jose Reyes. But there are many other questions which Sandy Alderson will have to answer either with a thumbs up or thumbs down for next year’s roster. Let’s take a look at how Alderson handled arbitration cases last year and see if that gives us any idea on what he will do with the club’s cases this season.

2010 Offseason
Chris Carter – The Mets cut ties with Carter despite him being a pre-arbitration player.
R.A. Dickey – Signed to a two-year deal with a club option
Sean Green – Non-tendered
John Maine – Non-tendered
Fernando Nieve – Conflicting information is out there in regards to his status and what happened. It seems like he was arbitration-eligible and the Mets non-tendered him. Regardless of the terminology, Alderson did not bring him back.
Angel Pagan – Avoided arbitration and re-signed to a one-year deal
Mike Pelfrey – Avoided arbitration and re-signed to a one-year deal

Alderson showed the willingness to act in many different ways in regards to his players not yet eligible for free agency. It seems unlikely that he will sign anyone to a multi-year deal like he did with Dickey last year. But the team’s five arbitration-eligible players should not assume they will be offered a contract.

In fact, only Bobby Parnell should feel confident about the club tendering him an offer. And that has more to do with the club’s lack of useful relievers than Parnell’s production. I expect both Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey to be with the club in 2012 but would not be shocked if the Mets cut ties. Taylor Buchholz is unlikely to be back given his issues and Ronny Paulino is a coin flip.

Which brings us to the team’s pre-arb players. It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that Alderson cuts ties with any of these players. But the most likely candidates would be Mike Baxter, Danny Herrera, Mike Nickeas and Jason Pridie. I expect all of them to be in Spring Training with the Mets and a few of them to make the Opening Day roster.

The Mets have eight free agents. In addition to Reyes, Miguel Batista, Chris Capuano, Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, Ryota Igarashi, Jason Isringhausen and Chris Young are all veterans with the necessary service time for free agency. It’s possible none of these players will return but smart money has the Mets bringing back three or four of these guys next year. Hairston and Igarashi seem the least likely to return. Evans seems ready to take Hairston’s spot as RH bat off the bench and Igarashi has been a disappointment in his two seasons in Queens.

Alderson will have a little more financial flexibility this offseason compared to a year ago. But he also has more spots to fill. Currently there are six players (Bay, Byrdak, Carrasco, Dickey, Santana and Wright) with 2012 contracts and nine pre-arb (Acosta, Beato, Davis, Duda, Evans, Gee, Murphy, Niese and Thole) players that seem a lock to return.

Assuming $500K salaries for each of the nine pre-arb players mentioned above, the Mets have around $68 million in payroll accounted for in 2012 with 10 roster spots to fill. With payroll expected to be between $100-$110 million, the Mets have roughly $37 million to spend this offseason. Half of that (or more) will go to Reyes if they’re able to bring him back.

How Alderson spends that $37 million will go a long way in determining the success of the 2012 team.

5 comments for “How will Alderson handle arbitration and pre-arb players?

  1. Brian Joura
    October 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Should add Tejada and Turner for the pre-arb players. So Alderson has $36 million for eight players.

  2. October 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Brian, good thought exercise, and I’m definitely eager to see how Alderson and Company handle these decisions. I still hope, and expect, that Angel Pagan will be tendered a contract, but it’s getting hard to ignore all the outlets reporting that he might be let go. If that happens, it would be the first move I wholeheartedly disagree with from this front office. We shall see.

    On Nieve…
    He was indeed still pre-arb when he parted ways with the Mets, but he wasn’t non-tendered. He simply left as a minor league free agent (he was not on the 40-man roster at the end of the 2010 season).

    On Chris Carter…
    I believe he was non-tendered because of the minimum minor league salary he’d have required on a 2011 split contract. Typically a pre-arb player will have a split contract that pays him a 5-figure salary in the minors, and something close to the ML minimum salary in the Majors. However, Article VI-D of the CBA states that no player can have a minor league salary that pays less than 60% of his prior year’s total baseball earnings. Carter spent roughly 85% of 2010 making a pro-rated $400K in the Majors, so his 2011 minimum minor league salary would have been over $200K, more than triple what a veteran player would ordinarily make in AAA. Clearly Carter didn’t factor heavily into the Mets’ 2011 Major League plans, and given that, the cost of keeping him in the org was just too high.

    On the 2011 arb guys…
    The Super Two cutoff is likely to keep Parnell pre-arb for one more year. However Manny Acosta will be arb eligible, and seems a good bet to be offered a contract.

    On the potential 2011 pre-arb non-tenders…
    Herrera and Nickeas could both be DFA’d and outrighted, but neither is likely to be non-tendered, IMO. Pridie and Baxter, however, could find themselves in Chris Carter’s situation, since both players spent significant time cashing Major League paychecks last year (and as such would be expensive AAA players in 2012). Baxter has options, though, so that flexibility helps his case. If Pridie isn’t firmly in the Major League plans, however, then I could see him being non-tendered despite being pre-arb.

    On Igarashi…
    He isn’t technically FA-eligible. I believe his contract simply requires the Mets to release him if he hasn’t signed an extension by a certain date. A technical difference, sure, and to the other 29 teams it’s completely irrelevent, but to the Mets, they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him until mid-May (just like with Hisanori Takahashi last year). Although I’m sure many fewer Mets fans will care about that this time around.

    On Beato…
    He might be back at Citi Field next April, but I could also see the Mets sending him to Buffalo now that they’re free of the Rule 5 restrictions. That would open up $500K in your calculations (however it would also require another arm for the pen).

    And hanging over all of this is the upcoming CBA, which could change how arbitration eligibility, free agent compensation, and even free agency eligibility work. It should be an interesting couple of months.

  3. Brian Joura
    October 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the input Chris!

    For me, the first move that I disagreed with from Alderson & company was taking Blaine Boyer north and exposing Manny Acosta. Fortunately they rectified that mistake.

    Not sure how I feel on Pagan. Given his age (turned 30 in July)it’s possible that what we saw last year is as good as it gets from here on out. If that’s the case, he’s not going to be worth what he’ll command in arbitration.

    I’d really like it if we could add a CF in the offseason but that may not be very realistic. Given the injury to Nieuwenhuis, Pagan may be the best option. It may not mean anything, but the Mets were 26-19 in games that Pridie started and he might be a viable one-year stop-gap solution.

    • October 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

      Yeah, I preferred Acosta to Boyer last spring, too, (full disclosure, I also preferred Nick Evans over Scott Hairston and Willie Harris, which doesn’t look as smart in retrospect), but in neither of those situations was I confident enough about my preference to say that I thought the FO definitely made a mistake. With a Pagan non-tender, I would.

      He had a down year in 2011, both offensively and defensively, but Pagan is just one year removed from a 5.5 WAR season (and 2 years removed from a 2.9 WAR half-season). His career UZR/150 in CF is -1.4, suggesting that in a typical season, he could be expected to cost the team about a run and a half with his CF defense. He had a bad defensive year in 2011 for sure, but I maintain that he’s not a bad defensive player. And in 2010, the guy hit .290/.340/.425. That’s excellent production from a CFer. Even post-injury this past year (i.e. from May through the end of the season), he hit .279/.333/.394, which isn’t too far off. Basically, I have a hard time ignoring all of that just because he had an awful and unlucky (.180 BABIP) 82 PA in April and made some frustrating, boneheaded plays in the field.

      But perhaps most importantly, Pagan can be had on a one year, ~$5M deal. He’s 30 years old. At the end of his contract, he’d be 31. I’m not terribly concerned about age-related regression on a one-year deal for a 30-year-old.

      And FWIW, free agent compensation could come into play next year. If Pagan had been eligible this year, believe it or not, he would have been one of the highest Type B free agents available, just barely missing Type A status. If the FA comp structure is similar to the current one in the new CBA, a decent year should see him still qualify for Type B. A strong, 2009/2010 type year could even see him wind up a Type A. Just something else to consider.

      Ultimately, I wouldn’t mind adding a RH bat capable of playing CF as a little insurance, though. So that if Pagan does take a major step back next year (which, again, I think is exceedingly unlikely), at least they’ll be able to drop him into a platoon. Scott Hairston would seem to be a good fit (although that would bring Nick Evans’ spot back into serious jeopardy again). A defensively versatile RH OF also makes sense if Pagan does perform well, since it looks like Lucas Duda will be manning RF next year. Having an opposite handed, defensively competent 4th OF would be useful to spot him, too.

      I dunno, we’ll see what happens.

      • Metsense
        October 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

        Based on your post Chris, I think you do know! It is the best supporting arguement for tendering Pagan. The Mets would be dealing with a one year contract that could result in some future prospects. I personally don’t like Pagan’s play but for business reasons he has too much value to let him walk away.

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