A few days ago, I laid out the idea that the Mets could potentially continue to lower their payroll over the next few seasons. Such a trend could see the team flirt with a payroll in the $70 million dollar range heading into the 2014 season. Today I'm here to tell you that such a team might actually be better than the group the Mets will trot out this season.
The fact of the matter is that the Mets are only one contract away from having a $70 million dollar payroll. Following the end of the 2013 season, the expiration of Johan Santana's $25 million dollar annual salary by itself will see the team's payroll (provided it doesn't rise in the meantime) fall well below that $70 million dollar level. Keep in mind though that Santana's won't be the only deal to expire between now and then.
As it stands today, the most expensive players on the team happen to be the most expendable. The next two seasons could see the promotion of at least three major pitching prospects. With all their talent, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and eventually Zack Wheeler will also bring major league minimum salaries with them. While there is no telling if or to what level each of these youngsters succeed, how much of a drop off could there be from an aging (injured) Johan Santana and the underachieving Mike Pelfrey? For what its worth, that would replace more than $30 million in payroll for roughly $1.5 million a year.
When it comes to the lineup, unless he experiences several healthy seasons between now and then the close of the 2013 season will also bring with it the end of the Jason Bay era. His departure would free up an additional $16 million dollars for the Mets front office. By that time, its reasonable to think Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be the everyday center fielder. Lurking behind him could be Matt Den Dekker and at some point Brandon Nimmo if all plays out as planned. If neither pan out, the Mets should be able to replace Bay's production, provided it doesn't spike by way of the new Citi Field dimensions, for no more than half of his salary.
If your keeping track, even if they're forced to reinvest half of Bay's salary the Mets will have shed an estimated $38 million dollars headed into 2014. From where they stand today, the Mets would theoretically enter the year with a payroll of $52 million dollars. As a result, the Mets would not only have the funds to resign David Wright at that point, but could also cover the cost of whatever raise Ike Davis would be in line for at that time.
Under this projection, the 2014 roster would undoubtedly be a young one, but at those numbers is the roster any worse than that which will take the field this spring? Should things play out as such, the Mets would have a team that could mature together while led by veterans, David Wright and Ike Davis. The franchise would even be in a position to keep the group together, as a then $70 million dollar payroll would leave the financial room to pay the younger players when each becomes arbitration eligible. Would the 2014 Mets be a contender for the NL pennant under these circumstances, probably not. However, again I ask if they would be any worse than the team this season? And more importantly, would the franchise be better off in the long run?
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