Originally, I was very troubled about the news that the Mets would have a $100-$110 million payroll in 2012. But after running some numbers, I think it’s not going to be as big of a catastrophe as I originally thought, due to the presence of a number of players under team control. Don’t believe me? Here’s the Mets’ 2012 commitments, with all numbers in millions:

$24.00 – Santana
$18.13 – Bay
$15.25 – Wright
$04.75 – Dickey
$01.50 – Byrdak – estimated total
$01.20 – Carrasco
$64.83 million total for six players, which leaves roughly $40 million for 19 players.

But then you look at all of the pre-arbitration players that the Mets have – Beato, Davis, Duda, Evans, Gee, Murphy, Niese, Parnell, Tejada, Thole and Turner – and suddenly it becomes workable. Using a salary of $500,000 for each of these players adds $5.5 million to the payroll. Now the Mets are at $70.33 million for 17 players, which leaves roughly $35 million for eight players.

If the roster breaks down as 5 SP, 7 RP, 2 C, 6 INF and 5 OF, the Mets need to fill the following eight positions: 1 SP, 3 RP, backup catcher, middle infielder, CF, backup outfielder.

Of course, this is making some assumptions. First is that Santana will be ready to go at the start of the year. Second is that Gee is in the rotation, third is that they keep Carrasco and fourth is that Beato opens the year in the majors. Any or all of these could turn out to be false. But the nature of the beast is that you have to make assumptions and these are the ones that I choose to use for this exercise.

Let’s also assume that the Mets make Nickeas their backup catcher and Pridie their fifth outfielder. That’s two more pre-arb players, bringing the roster to 19 players and total team salary to $71.33 million.

Manny Acosta is arbitration-eligible but how much money can he expect to earn? To keep using round numbers whenever possible, let’s assign him a $1 million salary, although I expect it will be lower. So that’s 20 players for $72.33 million, leaving roughly $33 million for five players – SP, 2 RP, MI, CF.

Let’s say the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes for a multi-year deal worth $18 million. That leaves roughly $15 million for a SP, 2 RP and a CF. The Mets have enough money to go for a closer and look to fill in cheap at the other three positions. Or they can look to re-sign either Capuano or Pelfrey along with Pagan and fill in cheap with the two relievers.

If they don’t re-sign Reyes, they have money to sign a higher-profile SP. Personally, I don’t think the SP available are going to be worth the contracts that they’ll command, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a potential option for Sandy Alderson, even given the reduced budget. My preferred option is exploring the trade market and look to acquire a player already under contract.

The bottom line is that the Mets will have options, even with a payroll that is embarrassing for a large-market team. It’s not impossible that the Mets could also wind up with other pre-arbitration players on the Opening Day roster, like Fernando Martinez or Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the outfield or Reese Havens or Josh Satin or Jordany Valdespin in the infield or Danny Herrera or Josh Stinson in the bullpen.

A $100-$110 million payroll is feasible because of the unusually large number of pre-arb players that the Mets have to pick and choose from in filling out the 2012 roster. It’s not ideal, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster, either. Hopefully, Davis, Duda, Murphy and Tejada can build upon the partial seasons they had in 2011 and produce value equal to or better over a full year in 2012.

Let’s put on our optimistic face and make some 2012 projections on 2011 numbers. What will the Mets be like if they can put up the following OPS numbers over an entire season:

Davis .900 – he had a .925 mark in 2011
Duda .850 – he had an .852 mark last year
Murphy .800 – he had an .809 mark before getting injured
Tejada .725 – he had a .784 mark after being called up for good

The offense would be in good shape if that happens but how good the team ends up being will still be determined on how the pitching does. But at the very least, if those four players end up with those numbers over a full season, we’ll be able to say one thing for certain – that Omar Minaya did not leave the cupboard as bare as many thought.

5 comments on “Mets 2012 payroll situation not as bleak as it seems

  • jerseymet

    This roster would still finish fourth in the division. Save the money, let Wright and Reyes go. We need pitching, which is still working it’s way up the system. Let the AAAA players show what they can do.

    • Charlie Hangley

      I don’t know, jersey. I mean, they’re considered AAAA players for a reason…

  • Steve S.

    Non-tender Pelfrey and Pagan. That saves $10 million or so. Now you have $25 million to spend (at least in year one of a big contract for a SP and two relief pitchers and the CFer). Trade for a decent CF with a salary of $3 million+. Sign C. J. Wilson for $18 million/year for five years. That leaves you with $4 million to spend. But the NY Mets are still a big-market team (and the Wilponzies don’t want to be called “cheap” and need revenues to go up, not down—i.e., the Mets need to be a winning, competitive team), so let’s spend a LITTLE more money (even $2 million more) and sign Peralta and Francisco for the pen.

    • Mike Koehler

      But Wilson isn’t worth that type of money, nor would I want to hand someone 30 or over a long contract. I agree with Brian, the starting pitching just isn’t there on the FA market, unless you’re looking for a back of the rotation or high risk/reward guy.

      • Steve S.

        Do we really want to go with Pelfrey again? Or even Capuano?

        C. J. Wilson may be 30, but he hasn’t pitched that many innings. And check out his stats: ERA+ of 152 this year, with 134 in 2010. He also increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walks. A WAR of 5, for pete’s sake. Pelfrey was 1.4 and Capuano was 1.7 this past year!

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