Essentially, this trade is a salary dump. Would you give up Wright if it meant getting out from the obligation to pay Bay at least $35 million and more likely $49 million the next three seasons? When you add in the $15 million for Wright in 2012 and the $16 million he would get if they picked up his option – that comes out to an $80 million savings.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the chances of the Mets getting their money’s worth from Bay and Wright the next two/three years is virtually nil. Then when you consider the financial condition of the owners – if this trade did exist it would put Alderson in an extremely difficult position. Already he is being vilified in some corners for allowing Jose Reyes to leave as a free agent. What would be the damage to his reputation among many fans if he bid adieu to Bay and Wright, too?
But Alderson was brought aboard to make the grown-up decisions. It hurts that Reyes left but I think there’s little chance he earns that contract. The history of people earning $100 million contracts is not pretty and it’s not likely to improve with Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard unlikely to earn their newly-minted deals.
So, let’s say Alderson continues to be an adult and agrees to this mythical deal. Where would that leave the 2012 Mets? It would free up $33 million from this year’s payroll and leave the team with only three players signed – Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and D.J. Carrasco. Of course, now Alderson would also need to add a 3B and OF to his offseason shopping list.
The first problem would seem to be easily solved – have Daniel Murphy play 3B. And trading Bay would allow Lucas Duda to switch to LF, where hopefully his defense would be less of an issue. So, the Mets have a ton of money to pick up a RF. Now, we know the Wilpons are going to pocket a bunch of this cash, but for argument’s sake – let’s say they give Alderson half of the $33 million to put back into the 2012 team and half goes towards paying back MLB (ha!).
So, what RF could the Mets pick up? I’ve got a name for you – how about old pal Carlos Beltran?
The Mets could have a DP combo of Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner, with Murphy at 3B and Beltran in RF. Let’s look at how that offense would shape up, compared to if the Mets had re-signed Jose Reyes and not made our mythical deal, and how that lineup they would produce. We’ll ignore people like Ike Davis, who would be on both versions of these pretend squads. For comparison purposes, I’ll use the 2012 Bill James OPS projections, available at FanGraphs.
2B (Tejada) – .656
3B (Wright) – .862
SS (Reyes) – .805
OF (Bay) – .791
2B (Turner) – .722
3B (Murphy) – .811
SS (Tejada) – .656
OF (Beltran) – .849
The Reyes lineup is clearly better, at least offensively, but is it $40 million better? Bay, Reyes and Wright would be in the ballpark of $51 million. If you figure $1 million as the combined salary for Murphy and Turner and $10 million for Beltran – then you get $40 million difference between the two teams.
I don’t know what the market for Carlos Beltran is – we’ll find out soon enough. But would a three-year/$30 million offer be enough? If that would get the job done, we would still have $6.5 million in savings from dumping the contracts of Bay and Wright to go towards pitching in 2012. And that’s not counting any money that it would have cost to sign Reyes.
Again, let’s give Alderson half of the money that would have gone to sign Reyes, who gets around $18 million per year from the Marlins, with the Wilpons pocketing the rest. Now Alderson has $15.5 million for pitching to spend as he sees fit.
So, in our pretend universe, the Mets could have Reyes back and nothing but reclamation guys to fill out the rotation/bullpen. Or they could have Beltran, an established closer and another solid pitcher and the Wilpons with an extra $25.5 million (enough to pay off that loan – ha!). The offense of the first team is clearly better. The defense of the second team is better and the pitching, too. I think you could make a case for the Murphy lineup, especially when you factor in that it’s $25.5 million cheaper.
This is just a way to look at value because no team is going to make that trade offer and it’s unlikely that Beltran comes back to the Mets. But while we’re talking about Beltran, I have two more thoughts on the former Met. First, the Mets played their best ball of the season when Beltran and Murphy were in the lineup. They were 43-36 (.544) when both Beltran and Murphy started the game and 34-49 with one or both of them missing.
By contrast, the Mets were 60-64 (.484) in games Jose Reyes started. If we just look at Beltran, the Mets were 50-44 (.532) when he started.
Earlier, I mentioned that it was very rare for a player to be worth a $100 million contract. One of the few to pull off that trick was Beltran. According to FanGraphs, Beltran provided $133 million worth of value over the life of his free agent contract while he was paid $119 million over that span.
Let’s compare fWAR for Beltran and Reyes over the past seven years:
What do you think the odds are that Reyes provides the value that Beltran did going forward? Mets fans can be sad that Reyes will be playing elsewhere from now on but they should be comforted by the fact that he’s unlikely to be worth what he’ll be paid and the team will not be waiting for the last few years for his salary to come off the books.
And we should use this same time to reflect on what a great player Beltran was for the team.