The New York Mets still have a payroll issue
Aug 1, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline before a game against the New York Yankees at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets have a team with championship aspirations and a payroll that isn’t meeting those ambitions.

Christmas has come and gone, and the New York Mets did not find any new presents under their tree. Yes, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker have returned, but the bulk of their holiday shopping was completed over a month ago.

There are still several holes left to fill, and the team’s payroll isn’t aligning with those of other big market clubs. In fact, it’s meandering in the middle of the league.

We have seen teams play competitive ball from small markets with limited payrolls. Spending doesn’t always necessarily equate to winning. However, the Mets are in need of a few more acquisitions (the bullpen most glaringly) and the payroll seems to be limiting their options.

When 2016 started, the Mets payroll stood at just over $130 million, per Business Insider. That ranked fifteenth in all of the MLB.

It’s evident that the Mets have been trying to trade Jay Bruce for most of the offseason, although his value has been minimal. If the Mets were to flip him for a low ceiling relief pitcher or dump his salary in exchange for prospects, the payroll would likely fall somewhere in the $135-140 million range. To put things in perspective, the Baltimore Orioles were tenth in payroll at the beginning of 2016 at just under $148

Here’s the issue: the Mets have an obvious need in the bullpen. It doesn’t look like they’ll acquire the relief pitcher they desire unless they eat a significant portion of Bruce’s salary. The going rate for middle innings relievers has been two or three years at an average of five to nine million per season. This isn’t ideal given Sandy Alderson’s previous spending habits, but it’s the going rate nonetheless.

The low budget Miami Marlins snagged Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa for a combined four years and thirty million. A proven, veteran reliever is what the Mets should target, and they have not been seriously connected to any middle inning relievers thus far. Bringing back Jerry Blevins seems to be a long shot at this point.

So, why can’t the New York Mets, a team in the largest media market in the world, with championship dreams, cough up a few two year offers to cement their bullpen? Given the importance of late inning relief–just look at the Royals in 2014 and ’15 and the Cleveland Indians of this past season as examples–why can’t the Mets add funds to address an obvious area of need?

The Mets drew over 2.7 million fans to Citi Field last season which was the highest attendance record since the park opened in 2009. Expectations are high heading into next season, so one would imagine that as long as the club remains in contention, ticket sales should produce significant revenue.

The Mets don’t need to hand out the kind of contracts that were given to Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, but a two-year pact worth six or seven million per season shouldn’t be so much to ask.

The Mets GM has already acknowledged financial constraints earlier this offseason at the Winter Meetings. He told multiple reporters outside of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center that, “Payroll is an issue, but so is playing time,” in reference to the current outfield situation.

Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News noted that payroll isn’t likely to exceed the $140 million mark on Opening Day.

While the Mets payroll seems likely to increase from last year’s opening day mark, it still won’t be in the same stratosphere as other big market teams. For a club with championship inclinations and increasing attendance in four straight seasons, the almighty dollar still seems to remain the problem child.

Central jersey born and bred. Monmouth University alumnus. Sports are not games, rather ways of life. Twitter: @Gcam92 Contact: