As of Opening Day 2011, the Mets payroll is $142,797,166 dollars. On the payroll are four players who are no longer playing on the Mets, but are still being paid by the team because of contractual obligations for 2011- Oliver Perez ($12 million dollars), Luis Castillo ($6 million dollars), Gary Matthews Jr. ($1 million dollars), and Blaine Boyer ($725,000 dollars). Other players, such as Bobby Bonilla, and Bret Saberhagen are still owed money- $1.2 million dollars and $250,000 dollars, respectively- but are not counted in the actual payroll tally, since the money they're getting is from the "contingent liabilities" pot, and not the pot allocated to the team's payroll.
Looking forward, the Mets will be losing two big-time players to free agency, besides for, possibly, Jose Reyes. Carlos Beltran, and his $20 million dollar contract is the biggest and most glaring, in terms of money and potential baseball production. Fransisco Rodriguez needs to finish 55 games in order for his $17.5 million option doesn't vest. If it doesn't, the Mets pay him a $3.5 million dollar termination buyout, and he, too, becomes a free agent. Other, lesser names that will not be on the payroll for 2012 include Ryota Igarashi ($1.75 million dollars), Chris Capuano ($1.5 million dollars), Scott Hairston ($1.1 million dollars), Chris Young ($1.1 million dollars), Tim Byrdak ($900,000 dollars), Willie Harris ($800,000 dollars), and Jason Isringhausen ($400,000 dollars). In total, that amounts to $72,275,000 dollars.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: K-Rod should be $11.5 million - $3.5 million, resulting in a net $8 million in total, leaving the end result $64,275,000
Money coming off the books is mitigated by raises that players who will be around in 2012 will be getting because of arbitration, or contractually obligated raises. Johan Santana will be getting a raise of $1.5 million dollars, raising his salary from $22.5 million dollars to $24 million dollars. David Wright will be getting a raise of $1 million dollars, raising his salary from $14.25 million dollars to $15.25 million dollars. R.A. Dickey will be getting a raise of $2 million dollars, raising his salary from $2.75 million dollars to $4.75 million dollars. The players who are going into arbitration are Ronny Paulino (Arb 3), Taylor Buchholz (Arb 4), Angel Pagan (Arb 4), Mike Pelfrey (Arb 2), and Bobby Parnell (Arb 1). It is almost a certainty that Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan, and Bobby Parnell both receive raises, and remain with the team. Ronny Paulino and Taylor Buchholz are likely to receive raises as well, but their future with the team remains not as certain. Given that neither, so far, has shown a reason why they shouldn't be on the 2012 Mets, I'm going to assume that they return next season.
Here are some rough estimations for arbitration salary increases (arbitrary arbitration increases, if you will):
Buchholz, $1 million dollars, up from $600,000
Pagan, $5.5 million, up from $3,500,000
Parnell, $1 million dollars, up from $400,000
Paulino, $3 million dollars, up from $1.35 million dollars
Pelfrey, $8 million dollars, up from $3,925,000
In total, this amounts to $13.4 million dollars.
The $64,275,000 dollars that is coming off the books is mitigated by the money that players will be receiving in raises, for the 2012 season. So, that $13.4 million dollar figure must be subtracted from the total amount that is coming off the books via the departure of various free agents. So, in total, a net $50,875,000 dollars is coming off the books for the 2012 season.
Next, we must consider how much, if at all, the payroll is going to shrink for the 2012 season (and beyond). On the radio, on the TV, in the newspapers, and across the internet, we've heard all kinds of things. Some have said that the Mets will continue forward into 2012 fielding a team with a payroll roughly the same as the current payroll. Others have said that the Mets payroll will shrink so significantly that the team won't even be able to sign 2011 amateur player draftees overslot. In December 2010, Sandy Alderson stated that the payroll will almost certainly go down, to roughly $120 million dollars. That is, approximately, a 15% payroll decrease. After scouring the results of various web searches, I could not find any reliable 2012 payroll estimates, with citations, saying that Sandy was planning on fielding a team with a lower payroll. Let's, for the sake of argument, assume that the payroll does go lower. Slimming things down to $100 million dollars is, approximately, a 33% payroll decrease, and is just around the bare minimum that the team can spend, because of existing payroll obligations.
If the 2012 Mets payroll ends up being a ‘robust' (as compared to numbers others are saying) $120 million dollars, the Mets have the financial flexibility to re-sign Jose Reyes very easily, and still have enough money left over to sign other available free agents. With the payroll dropping from $142,797,166 dollars to $120,000,000 dollars, $20 million dollars is deducted from the net total that is coming off the books for 2012. So, the Mets would be going into the off-season with a net $30,875,000 to play around with. Jose Reyes, with that money, could easily be signed to a multi-year contract, similar to that of Carl Crawford (who everyone is expecting Reyes to sign a similar deal in 2012 as), and there would be money left over to address other issues via Free Agency.
If the 2012 Mets payroll ends up being a ‘leaner' $100 million dollars, the Mets still would have the financial flexibility to re-sign Jose Reyes. With the payroll dropping from $142,797,166 dollars to $100,000,000 dollars, $40 million dollars is deducted from the net total that is coming off the books for 2012. So, the Mets would be going into the off-season with a net $10,875,000 to play around with. Jose Reyes, with that money, could be signed to a multi-year contract, similar to that of Carl Crawford (who everyone is expecting Reyes to sign a similar deal in 2012 as). There would be a limited amount of money left over to use in Free Agency, but high profile, expensive signings would be impossible, meaning there would be a lot of low-cost, low/moderate-reward signings, and Minor Leaguers.
Is it likely that the Mets payroll dips beneath $100 million dollars? It seems improbable, but not impossible. The Mets already have $66,830,000 dollars committed to the 2012 payroll. Factoring in the additional $8.4 million dollars from arbitration raises, the team will have $75,230,000 dollars committed to the 2012 season, with numerous holes that need to be filled. Assuming a glut of Minor Leaguers make the team, that's an estimated $80 million dollar payroll, with all of their $400,000 Major League minimum salaries. Is it realistic that the Mets field a team with a bunch of Minor Leaguers in the everyday line-up, bench, pitching rotation, and bullpen? No, no it is not. So, any figures below $100 million dollars that are thrown out as possible 2012 payroll numbers are unrealistic. Therefore, we can consider the $100 million dollar threshold the bare minimum payroll for 2012. And, as demonstrated above, with such a payroll, the Mets still have the financial ability to sign Jose Reyes to a market-value contract (let alone one with possible hometown discounts).