On Saturday, the Mets inked catcher James McCann to a four-year deal, filling one of their biggest needs this offseason. While the exact specifics of the contract have not yet been confirmed, Jeff Passan noted that it will be for “just a touch over $40 [million] and includes a signing bonus,” per his sources. This would mean that the team has committed another $10 million for the upcoming season.
With Steve Cohen at the helm, it’s clear the team has no issues spending, but he also proclaimed at his introductory presser that they won’t be spending like “drunken sailors.” The consensus seems to be that the Mets will approach the competitive balance (CB) tax threshold but would not exceed that mark. For the 2021 MLB season, the number is set at $210 million, so it’s worth diving into where the Mets currently are and how much room they have left before reaching that number.
As a side note, the penalty for first-time offenders—the Wilpon Mets, unsurprisingly, never surpassed the CB tax payroll—would be the team paying a 20% penalty only on any overages. If the Mets were to run a $220 million payroll in 2021, for example, they would pay a very manageable $2 million penalty. It’s also important to remember that there are two numbers worth looking at: the Opening Day 26-man payroll and the 40-man CB tax payroll. The latter number is the one we are most interested in, as it will dictate how much room the Mets have to spend before reaching the penalty threshold.
After signing McCann—assuming the deal will hit at $10 million AAV—the team’s 26-man at right under $150 million, while their 40-man CB tax payroll would be at about $150.2 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. Over the course of the offseason, the Mets have already added Sam McWilliams at $750,000, Marcus Stroman at $18.9 million, Trevor May at $7.75 million, and now McCann at around $10 million, so they have already added $37.4 million to their payroll. After their most recent addition, they should have just under $60 million to play with for the rest of the winter.
While that might seem like a lot, the team still has plenty of things they need to get done before spring training. The Mets have recently been linked to superstar center fielder George Springer, and the popular consensus seems to be that the Mets will come away with him in the end. This would be both a huge boost to an offense that recently lost Robinson Cano’s 141 wRC+ and a move to shore up the team’s often-woeful defense. With the team in desperate need of a center fielder, Springer should be the number one target going forward. He would likely come with an AAV at somewhere around $25 million which, assuming he comes to New York, would then give the Mets roughly $35 million to play with for the rest of the winter.
The Mets also need to address their pitching. As it stands, the Mets could in theory field a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Stroman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, and David Peterson—while waiting for Noah Syndergaard to recover from Tommy John surgery—but that is a far-from-ideal situation. The Mets would likely need to sign at least one, and preferably two, more starting pitchers. This would allow Lugo to return to the pen, would lead to a potential spring training competition between Matz and Peterson for that fifth spot, and would give the team some major league-caliber depth in case of injury. The Mets have most recently been linked to free agent Jake Odorizzi, and some have speculated the team could also be a landing spot for former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
As for their bullpen, the club already has seven spots committed to Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Trevor May, Brad Brach, Robert Gsellman, and Miguel Castro, and could have the eighth locked down if Lugo returns to the bullpen. Assuming the Mets run an eight-man pen, that leaves no room for improvement on a bullpen that was largely ineffective, to put it mildly, in 2020. The Mets will have to get creative and may need to eat some money if they want to properly fix it. The Mets were most recently linked to closer Liam Hendricks, who is the best available free agent reliever, and left-hander Brad Hand is also still out there.
The Mets will also need to address their bench depth and should still be in the market for either a second baseman or a third baseman. With Cano out for the year following his suspension for PED use, the Mets, as it stands, would enter the season with Jeff McNeil at second and J.D. Davis at third. However, they should still look for either a second baseman (with McNeil shifting to third) or a third baseman to either pair with Davis or to take over full-time in order to move Davis to the bench full-time. This would give the team Davis’ potent right-handed bat off the bench.
The last thing to consider is a Michael Conforto extension, which should also be a priority for the front office this offseason. Conforto is set to hit free agency in 2022, and the club absolutely cannot afford to lose the homegrown Met. His current arbitration estimates from Cot’s Contracts have him making just under $12 million. Like deGrom, an extension might come towards the end of the offseason after all other moves have been, made, but it should still remain on the team’s to-do list before taking the field next season.
The payroll numbers will become a little clearer in mid-January, when teams and arbitration-eligible players settle on their finalized salaries for the 2021 seasons. The chart below shows the team’s current commitments as it stands on December 13, with all estimates and figures coming courtesy of Cot’s Contracts. While Cohen and the Mets have already shown us that they will spend to improve the team, they still have a long way to go, and things could get tricky as they approach that $210 million mark.
Mets 2021 payroll
|Player||2021 26-man Salary||2021 40-man AAV|
|Player||2021 26-man Salary||2021 40-man AAV|
|0-3 year players (6)||$4,200,000||$4,200,000|
|Estimated Player Benefits||$15,500,000|
|*2021 Arbitration projects from Cot's Contracts.|