I don’t even want to think about the repercussions of this one, but if the New York Mets want to cut payroll, a good place for them to start is with the nine players who will exchange salary numbers with the team next Friday. Let’s examine the potential winners and losers in what could become a brutal and very public battle.
As we know, the New York Mets are in dire straits to cut about $20 million from last year’s payroll of $155 million. With no access to their financial records (how convenient is that?), we are left only to believe what they say.
Potentially, the team can make great strides to save that money if they take a hard line on their upcoming arbitration cases with nine of their players.
God forbid if they do in terms of public relations, but with this organization, you never know.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, there is an estimated $43 million on the line representing the projected settlement salaries of the following Mets players:
- Matt Harvey (5.072) – $5.9 million
- AJ Ramos (5.030) – $9.2 million
- Jeurys Familia (5.023) – $7.4 million
- Zack Wheeler (4.098) – $1.9 million
- Travis d’Arnaud (4.044) – $3.4 million
- Wilmer Flores (4.003) – $3.7 million
- Jacob deGrom (3.139) – $9.2 million
- Noah Syndergaard (2.149) – $1.9 million
- Hansel Robles (2.129) – $1.0 million
The figures in parenthesis are service time for each player and the number on the far right is their projected salary for 2018 if the arbitration process goes all the way to the bitter end.
As I look at the list, I see only two players who should be resting comfortably at night with the confidence the Mets will pay them their actual value, and that’s deGrom and Syndergaard. But I’ll need a drink before anyone can convince me Ramos is worth $10 million unless he’s still getting paid for 2016 when he had 40 saves for the Miami Marlins.
Ditto, Zack Wheeler, who has pitched all of 86 innings for the Mets since 2014. As for Travis d’Arnaud, I can’t believe he’s still on the team let alone being paid $3.4 million. And on down the line until you reach the point where you say to yourself that maybe the Mets do have a point. And even though it’s of their own doing, a good many of these players deserve pay cuts, but not the money they’ll get from an arbitrator.
There are many flaws and pitfalls in the arbitration process and Justin Sievert, writing for the Sporting News, does as good a job as anyone explaining how the system works—or doesn’t work, as the case may be.
But one of the most significant flaws is it’s a winner take all system in which the arbiter has no choice but to take either the team’s number or the player’s number. He can’t go in-between.
The good news for the Mets, though, is the unstated rule that all discussion taking place in the hearings centers on the “what have you done for me, lately” question. So, based on the disaster of last season, the Mets could if they wanted to (with the exception being deGrom) take a harsh line with all of these players and probably do pretty well in the public opinion polls.
In doing so, the organization would be sending a backhanded message to the team they only pay winners, not losers. The other side of the coin, though, is risking mass dissension in the clubhouse, especially with players who have come to expect these “raises” as perfunctory, so let’s just sign on the dotted line and get outta here.
As we’ve gone through many times before, the Mets need to do something drastic and far-reaching to change the culture surrounding the team. The organization seems unable to get out of its own way, save for the hiring of Mickey Callaway, who just might be able to do what’s needed himself. But in lieu of that, putting the brakes on salary increases for someone like d’Arnaud, who continues not to impress, would be a good thing for the franchise as a whole.
We’ll know better next Friday when figures are exchanged and we’ll take another look then to see if the Mets follow the old style of offering raises no matter what, or do they forge a new, though possibly perilous path through the arbitration process?