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Mets 2008 Positional Salary Analysis

I was cruising around the other SB Nation blogs last night, searching desperately (and, at the same time, half-assedly, if you can believe it) for something to write about, when I stumbled upon this post at Brew Crew Ball which linked to this document, which presents the MLBPA breakdown of salary data for 2008. The PDF enumerates player and team salaries in all sorts of ways, for instance by service time (the average ten-year veteran made $7,880,920 last year) or by position (the average designated hitter made $7,506,036 last year; no wonder the MLBPA would never stand for its abolition).

I thought it'd be a neat time-killer to take some of the National League average numbers and juxtapose them with the Mets' expected starters at those positions to see where the Mets are putting their money when it isn't tied up in Ponzi schemes. I say "expected starters" as a hook to get Moises Alou in there as the left fielder, since his salary is a lot more interesting than Fernando Tatis's. Salary data is from The USA Today.

Here we go, then, with the Mets' position players from 2008.

Position NL Mean Met Salary Difference
C $2,222,788 Brian Schneider $4,900,000 +120.44%
1B $6,536,261 Carlos Delgado $16,000,000 +144.79%
2B $4,161,983 Luis Castillo $6,250,000 +50.17%
3B $4,992,301 David Wright $5,250,000 +5.16%
SS $3,576,680 Jose Reyes $4,375,000 +22.32%
LF $4,564,763 Moises Alou $7,500,000 +64.30%
CF $4,564,763 Carlos Beltran $18,622,809 +307.97%
RF $4,564,763 Ryan Church $2,000,000 -56.19%

With a team payroll north of $140 million (some $60 million more than the average payroll), one might reasonably expect the Mets to be paying their guys more than most, and certainly more than average in many cases. Other than Ryan Church, who isn't yet eligible for free agency, every Met regular made more in 2008 than the National League average at his position. Carlos Beltran made more than four times the average NL outfielder's salary. I'll note that the MLBPA made no distinction between center fielders and corner outfielders, which is the same bizarre classification that Rawlings makes when it hands out Gold Gloves and that Elias makes when they release their offseason player rankings which are used to determine free agent compensation status.

Strangely, the American League average second baseman made $2,932,360 last year, $1.2 million less than their NL counterparts. That has more to do with a few high-salaried players like Jeff Kent ($9 million), Chase Utley ($7.8 million), Ray Durham ($7.5 million) and Luis Castillo. In fact, second base is the only position in which the National League holds a salary edge. The American League leads everywhere else, and is especially dominant at shortstop ($7.3 million vs $3.6 million), third base ($8.9 million vs $5.0 million) and catcher ($5.3 million vs $2.2 million). This doesn't include the designated hitter, which carries an average salary of $7,506,036.

Here are the Mets' starting pitchers.

Position NL Mean Met Salary Difference
SP1 $4,606,486 Johan Santana $16,984,216 +268.70%
SP2 $4,606,486 Pedro Martinez $11,813,351 +156.45%
SP3 $4,606,486 Oliver Perez $6,500,000 +41.11%
SP4 $4,606,486 John Maine $450,000 -90.23%
SP5 $4,606,486 Mike Pelfrey $1,987,500 -56.85%

The MLBPA salary data classifies a starting pitcher as one who made at least 19 starts. The Mets did pretty well for themselves here with the exception of Pedro Martinez. Santana made a ton of money, but few would argue that he didn't earn it. Pelfrey was an absolute steal, as was John Maine, despite the latter's injury problems. Even Oliver Perez earned his money last year, which is probably more than we'll be able to say for any Oliver Perez season in the near future if he lands a free agent contract anywhere near the neighborhood Scott Boras is setting up his lemonade stand.

For comparison, American League starters made $4,215,601 on average last year.

Here are the Mets' relievers.

Position NL Mean Met Salary Difference
RP1 $1,805,362 Billy Wagner $10,500,000 +481.60%
RP2 $1,805,362 Aaron Heilman $1,200,000 -33.53%
RP3 $1,805,362 Duaner Sanchez $850,000 -52.92%
RP4 $1,805,362 Luis Ayala $1,700,000 -5.84%
RP5 $1,805,362 Pedro Feliciano $1,025,000 -43.22%
RP6 $1,805,362 Scott Schoeneweis $3,600,000 +99.41%
RP7 $1,805,362 Joe Smith $398,000 -77.95%

These numbers are queered somewhat by the fact that, for whatever reason, the MLBPA lumps all relievers together, instead of distinguishing between "closers" and "everyone else". The result is that the average salary is skewed upward somewhat, that closers will generally make far more than the average reliever, and that most other relievers will appear to have made slightly less, relative to the average, than they would were we to compare their salaries to other non-closers.

Without looking at other teams' bullpen salaries it's hard to tell if the Mets were the exception or the rule, but other than Billy Wagner they really didn't pay their relievers very well. Scott Schoeneweis made twice the league average, but everyone else was below that threshold. To be fair, all of the Mets' relievers aside from Wagner and Schoeneweis were six-and-under guys who were not yet eligible for free agency, the upshot being that one might reasonably expect them to make less money -- in some cases, like Joe Smith, far less -- than their free agent signee equivalents. So, yay for being frugal, but boo for doing it so poorly.