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If You Could Dump One Mets Contract

Even before Adam Rubin laid it out (as some other before him have), I think everyone probably knew that the Mets had already spent a lot of 2011 money. Next year's books have some $120 million on them and we still have seven weeks of baseball to play in 2010. Here's the guaranteed damage.

Player 2011 Salary
Jason Bay $16.0 million
Carlos Beltran $18.5 million
Luis Castillo $6.0 million
Ryota Igarashi $1.75 million
Oliver Perez $12.0 million
Jose Reyes $11.0 million
Francisco Rodriguez $11.5 million
Johan Santana $22.5 million
David Wright $14.0 million
Total $113.25 million

Notably absent are raises to Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan, and R.A. Dickey, plus some kind of salary to another fifteen or so players. Thankfully absent are John Maine, Alex Cora, and Jeff Francoeur, none of whom is likely to afflict the 2011 payroll with the disease of his sunk cost (Oliver Perez is another story altogether). That's easily $130-140 million without spending anything substantial in free agency, which can't leave the Mets with much room to pursue big-ticket players on the open market. It doesn't mean they can't find impact players who fly under the radar -- like Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi this year -- but it probably means they won't be shopping in the Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, or Victor Martinez aisles. Mrs. Met probably won't even let them look at those aisles.

The reality of the team's financial situation will unfold in the coming months, but forget all of that. What if we could augment reality and unburden the Mets of one awful contract? They have lots of awful contracts so picking just one might be tough. Here's a quickie analysis of each. Contract details courtesy of Cot's Contracts.

  • Johan Santana. 2011:$22.5M, 2012:$24M, 2013:$25.5M, 2014:$25M club option ($5.5M buyout).

    That's $77.5 million guaranteed, and I'm assuming the $5.5 million 2014 buyout because there's almost no way 35-year-old Santana will be worth anything like $25 million. Dumping this contract will rid the Mets of their highest-paid player for the next three years, but also a pretty darned good pitcher. Not really great anymore, but still quite good. Is "quite good" worth "crazy awesome" dollars? How much better will Santana be than, say Vazquez, over the next few seasons, especially considering Javy will cost something like half (or two-thirds) of a Santana?

  • Jason Bay. 2011:$16M, 2012:$16M, 2013:$16M, 2014:$17M club option ($3M buyout)

    Yikes. That's $51 million guaranteed plus, what else, a vesting option for 2014. Bay has underperformed this season and is currently on the disabled list, but he has been a four-to-five-win player in three of the prior four seasons and there's a pretty good chance he can return to an age-regressed version of that guy. Is that going to be worth $16 million a season? Maybe not, but it could be close for a little while.

  • Oliver Perez. 2011:$12M

    Just one year remaining on the deal, but the mere sight of Perez strikes most Mets fans with baby-punching apoplexy. That alone could be worth jettisoning Perez's contract, to say nothing of the $12 million the Mets will save. On the other hand, it's just one year and the Mets could still rid themselves of Perez's wretched carcass by simply cutting him and eating the salary.

  • Francisco Rodriguez. 2011:$11.5M, 2012:$17.5M option ($3.5M buyout)

    The $15 million guaranteed looks bad, but it'll look even worse if Rodriguez's 2012 option vests. Rodriguez is a fine pitcher who is among the most valuable relievers in baseball this year. Whatever dyspepsia he induces in onlookers may be soothed somewhat by the knowledge that he's still better than the great majority of "closers" in the game, and more so if we only consider who might reasonably be available to replace Rodriguez. Then again, the specter of paying $17.5 million for a relief pitcher in 2012 gives me agita something fierce.

  • Carlos Beltran. 2011:$18.5M

    He may be the cause of all that is wrong with the world, but he's also one of the best position players the Mets have ever had. If we can avoid letting emotion cloud our better judgment, we can say that Beltran will be 34 next year, has wonky knees, and is in line to earn $18.5 million. Angel Pagan's emergence as Carlos Beltran Lite is a valuable hedge against Voltron's continued dissolution, and would certainly make life after Carlos more agreeable (i.e. worth living). And if we're being honest with ourselves, how long can we stubbornly ignore those who peddle their new-age nonsense about Beltran's negative energy dragging down the second-half Mets?

Maybe Luis Castillo could be added to that list, but he's neither as offensive nor as unproductive as Perez, and at a cheaper price to boot. It's a tough choice, with so many eminently dumpable contracts. What say you?