As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Mets have signed third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year deal, officially introducing him at a press conference at Citi Field yesterday. The addition gives the Mets a player who has been worth no less than 2.5 fWAR in any of his full regular seasons in the big leagues and hit 27 home runs with a 108 wRC+ last year for the White Sox and Yankees with 3.0 fWAR. And for that, he’ll be paid just $17 million for two years, quite a bit less than you might expect for that sort of player.
From the team’s perspective, getting a bargain is, of course, great. The Mets might not even be in on free agents who didn’t come at an unexpectedly-low price at this point. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing more, so let’s take a look at the team’s payroll for 2018.
Cot’s contracts currently lists the Mets’ payroll for their 25-man roster at $144 million, including an estimate for Zack Wheeler and the players who haven’t yet hit arbitration eligibility. That number includes the entirety of David Wright’s $20 million salary for this year, a huge chunk of which the Mets are slated to get back from an insurance policy on his contract if he doesn’t play—a policy that they so kindly reminded everyone recently also had insurance premiums.
Yoenis Cespedes earns $29 million this year and has two more years left on the deal he signed with the Mets after his second stint of free agency that wound up falling within his Mets tenure. As far as player salaries go, he’s followed by Adrian Gonzalez, who will earn $22.3 million himself but will be paid merely the league minimum by the Mets since he had been released by the Braves. That leaves only Wright’s contract, which calls for $20 million this year, $15 million next year, and $12 million the year after that. Even if Wright continues trying to play and there were absolutely no insurance policy on him at all, it would be tough for the Mets to get any sympathy for the money he’s earning in 2019 and 2020.
Recently re-acquired outfielder Jay Bruce leads the way of the next tier at $11 million this year. He’ll make a bit more in each of the next two, which come at $14 million apiece. AJ Ramos, who’s in his final year of team control, makes $9 million, which Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier each make $8 million. Jeurys Familia comes in just a tick below that at $7.9 million, and Jacob deGrom makes 7.4 while Jerry Blevins makes an even 7.0.
Still in the years that were part of his contract extension, Juan Lagares earns 6.5 this year. Matt Harvey’s injuries brought him a very modest raise and a salary of 5.6 this year, and new face in the bullpen Anthony Swarzak makes 5.5 before earning 8.5 next year.
Pretty low salaries
Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer FLores, and Noah Syndergaard all make between $3 million and $3.5 million, Jose Reyes makes 2.0, Zack Wheeler’s salary is to be determined but should fall somewhere in this range—MLB Trade Rumors predicted it at $1.9 million. And that leaves just one player making significantly more than the minimum this year: Hansel Robles at $900,000.
Even if we assume the Mets get nothing back from David Wright’s salary this year, that leaves the team about $10 million shy of its payroll at the beginning of the 2017 season. Reports on what the team would spend this year had indicated that might be the entire budget, and in an attempt to clarify things to fans, Jeff Wilpon pretty much confirmed that it could fall anywhere in the range of $10 million less to matching what the team spent last year. In a market that has players signing for less than expected, that might mean the Mets can still acquire one or two good players without going over last year’s payroll.
Given the high likelihood that Wright will miss time, however, and the opportunity that still presents itself to the Mets in this incredibly late stage of free agency, those payroll plans should be something the Mets have talked about for years: flexible. If payroll can’t go up when it would be really wise to make additions to the team in free agency, “payroll flexibility” doesn’t exist.