With the offseason coming to a close, the Mets’ 2012 Opening Day payroll looks to be settling somewhere in the neighborhood of $90M. Nominally speaking, that’s an historic dropoff from last year’s Opening Day payroll of roughly $143.2M (per Cot’s, adjusting for Taylor Buchholz‘s roster bonus). There’s just no way to paint a $50M+ decline in payroll as a good thing. But I was skeptical about the actual impact of this massive payroll decrease. Yes, it will hurt, but the effect might not be quite as profound as the visceral reaction to hearing that the team you follow is about to experience one of the largest payroll reductions in MLB history. After all, it seemed to me that there was so much inefficiency, so much rotten luck, and so much payment for past mistakes in that 2011 payroll that there was room to drop the payroll and, at least on paper, not take it on the chin so directly. Some of those payroll issues certainly persists into 2012, but a fair amount of them don’t.
I took a look at the 50 players to whom the Mets cut big league checks in the 2011 season. Since deferred compensation from prior years is not technically considered to be a part of the current year’s payroll, players like Bobby Bonilla were not included. I’ve prorated the players’ salaries so that I’m only counting the portion of their ML salary they actually earned. For instance, Lucas Duda‘s 2011 Major League salary was roughly $415,000. He spent 58 days in the minors, so dividing that number by 182 (the number of days in the ML season), I can conclude that he spent 31.9% of the season in AAA, and thus 68.1% of the season earning a big league paycheck. His adjusted 2011 ML salary works out to about $283,000. Performing this calculation for all 50 players, I reach a Mets 2011 Average Payroll of roughly $136.7M. This number is based purely on salary and roster bonuses, and does not consider performance bonuses.
Biggest Contributors to 2011 Average Payroll:
1. Johan Santana – $22.5M
2. Carlos Beltran – $16.0M (net of money recouped from San Francisco)
3. Jason Bay – $16.0M
4. David Wright – $14.0M
5. Oliver Perez – $12.0M
6. Francisco Rodriguez – $11.5M
My next step was to determine the average payroll of the team that the Mets fielded on a day-to-day basis, or what I will refer to as their Effective Payroll. Again, this is probably best illustrated by example. Tim Byrdak spent the whole season with the big league club and was technically eligible to play every single day. As such, he contributes all $900,000 of his 2011 salary to the team’s Effective Payroll. David Wright, on the other hand, spent 66 days on the DL last year. During that time, he collected his full paycheck, but was unable to contribute to the team. So, Wright adds his full $14M to the team’s Average Payroll, but only about $8.9M to their Effective Payroll, creating a Deficit of about $5.1M. Performing this calculation for all 50 players results in a 2011 Effective Payroll of roughly $72.8M and a Deficit of roughly $63.9M. Put another way, of the $136.7M the Mets spent on players in 2011, $72.8M was given to players who could contribute to the team on a given night, and the other $63.9M went to players who were on the DL, players who were collecting big league checks in the minors, or players who the Mets were still paying, but who were no longer with the ball club.
Biggest Contributors to 2011 Deficit:
1. Johan Santana – $22.5M (recovery from prior injury)
2. Oliver Perez – $12.0M (released)
3. Luis Castillo – $6.0M (released)
4. David Wright – $5.1M (recovery from in-season injury)
5. Francisco Rodriguez – $4.9M (traded with cash)
6. Carlos Beltran – $3.9M (traded with cash)
As hard as it is to believe, with a little luck on the injury front (okay, maybe a little more than a little luck), the Mets could actually wind up putting a more expensive product on the field in 2012 than they did in 2011. It’s a little tough right now to see that translating to a better on-field product next year, and it may well not, but it’s at least something to dampen the effect of the bottom dropping out of the Mets’ war chest. On paper, anyway.
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