Unfortunately, Bobby Parnell will have Tommy John surgery, officially ending his 2014 season and calling into question his availability at the beginning of the 2015 season. While the team obviously has to replace Parnell in the bullpen this season, the team will also have a decision to make at the end of the year.
If the Mets were to let the season play out, they would have to decide whether or not to tender Parnell a contract for next year. This year, Parnell is earning $3.7 million in his second year of arbitration. At the very least, he would figure to earn that salary next season, and he could very well earn more despite the surgery.
Given the Mets' lack of bullpen talent, the team would obviously be best off retaining Parnell for next season. But there's risk in guaranteeing several million dollars to a relief pitcher whose return and effectiveness is not guaranteed next year. Perhaps the Mets could get a bit unorthodox and work out a contract extension that would benefit both the team and the player.
If Parnell is simply tendered a contract for next season, the Mets would take on quite a bit of risk. If he's not healthy, they will have spent a not-insignificant amount of money for a player who could then depart in free agency. In that case, the team would have paid Parnell quite a bit of money to miss two seasons. It would not be the worst bet to make on a player, but there's no real safety net for the Mets after 2015 here, aside from giving Parnell a qualifying offer after that season.
Perhaps the Mets would be best off offering Parnell a contract extension sometime in the near future. Although it's likely that Parnell will return to a major league mound, it's not certain.
Say the Mets offer Parnell a multi-year contract that guarantees a 2015 salary commensurate with what he would earn if the team were to tender him a contract and go to arbitration—let's say $5 million. That would have at least some appeal to Parnell, who, if non-tendered, might not get anything more than a one-year, incentive-laden contract.
The catch? In exchange for the guaranteed salary next year, the Mets would get two team option years. Let's say they would have the option of paying Parnell $6 million in 2016 and $8 million in 2017. If the team retains him through 2017—his age-32 season—that would be a three-year, $19 million contract.
Parnell would be guaranteed an amount of money he might not earn if he were to have a setback in his recovery from Tommy John. The Mets would be guaranteed team control on Parnell for another couple of years. It might sound cold, but signing Parnell to an extension following his surgery could be a good buy-low option for the Mets.