Arguably, the New York Mets could have one of the best (or even the best) starting pitching staff ever assembled by a team in the Majors. Along with that (and with no argument), they also have one of the cheapest staffs in the big leagues – with a payroll coming in at the midway point of the thirty teams at $130 million (The Dodgers and Yankees lead with well over $200 million each).
But, the questions for the Mets are this……..how long is the party going to last and what will their staff look like when it’s over……… And how much success will they enjoy in the interim while the partying is cheap?
And where are the Mets going to find a billion dollars over the next two to four years to retain their premium staff………..because that’s what they’re going to need………
For the upcoming season, the Mets will have a outlay of a little more than a mere $7 million for the services of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndegaard, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler (beginning in July). That total is roughly the same amount the Mets are paying for Bartolo Colon and also the same as other teams are paying for the likes of Ian Kennedy, Lance Lynn, and Doug Fister. Pretty good huh…….five potential super stars for the price of one.
But the fresh air is coming through a window that will not stay open for much longer. And that’s why the front office and Met fans are and will continue be in a race against the clock to amass pennants and World Championships as fast as they can while the gettin’ is good.
Here’s how the timetable shakes out…….The Mets have a few years of club control on their young starters – Matt Harvey is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season followed by Zack Wheeler (eligible after the 2019 season), deGrom (after 2020) and Syndergaard and Steven Matz (both after 2021).
For Sandy Alderson and Mets ownership, there’s a lot to think about between now and then. From comments he registered yesterday though, it would appear that Alderson is still in the denial stage, “Right now, I’m focused on the present,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy these guys. I’m not going to get too uptight about what might happen in 2020 with respect to these players at this point, because there’s plenty of time for us to resolve all of that”.
Maybe there is time Sandy, but let me do the math for you. To do that, we’ll need to make several assumptions, none of which are “crazy”. One, we need to assume that all starters will emerge from the next few seasons relatively healthy and successful. Second is that they want to continue their careers with the Mets and that the Mets have an interest in signing them to long term deals. And finally, we have to assume that the market for starting pitching will continue to skyrocket and that the Mets don’t go to the trade route to improve their offense by giving up one or more of these studs.
Now, let’s do the math. Matt Harvey will lead the parade. With Steve Boras as his agent, this battle should be one for the ages. Harvey can be predicted to sign for a minimum of $300 million over ten years. A bidding war is likely to occur with the Yankees emerging as leaders of that parade. Wheeler and deGrom are next. In Wheeler’s case, let’s think small and peg him for $150 million. DeGrom, by then could be in the stratosphere along with Harvey, but we’ll be conservative and slot him in for $200 million.
That leaves Matz and Syndergaard. Of these, Matz is somewhat of a wild card. As a lefty, he will command big money no matter what. But we still don’t have much of a track record to go on. So, well put him in for $125 million over five years. Syndergaard on the other hand could easily turn out to be the best of them all as many Met insiders are quietly suggesting now. If that happens, all bets are off. But for now, we’ll slot him in for $250 million at around eight to ten years.
And the grand total is…….$1.025 billion. So with that, maybe Alderson is right……..why worry about it now when it’s not gonna happen anyway. The track record of the Wilpons is very conservative when it comes to spending money. And no matter how many Championships and attendance records the Mets achieve, that is not going to change. So maybe it’s better to look at it this way……..
And instead of looking at it from the owner’s perspective, let’s view it from how the players might see it. In that respect, deGrom is a interesting case. He just got married and he might be looking forward to starting a family with the purchase of a new home in the suburbs. Thus, he might be one who is looking for a short term, but still rather lucrative deal that will tie him to the team for the next five or six years.
Meanwhile, Harvey (who has already proclaimed his desire to be the second coming of Derek Jeter ‘s lifestyle in New York City) is more likely to ride out the string and play the field (literally) until he reaches free agency and then go where Boras and the dollars take him. Which is a good plan except if the Mets trade him before that – which is a distinct possibility.
Long Island bred Steven Matz is another candidate who might be open to a “home town” deal at a reduced price giving him time to be close to his family while maturing into a full adult. Syndergaard may also want to buy some time because if he can continue to make the kind of strides he made last year, he’ll surely be one of the most sought after pitchers when he reaches free agency, and even before as he works his way through the arbitration years.
My money (if I had any) is that the Mets will bumble and stumble through the entire process. Alderson, who is afflicted with cancer, will either get so fed up with the ownership of the Mets that he will retire or move on as quickly as possible. And unless there’s another talent pool similar to this one, the Mets could easily find themselves facing another drought of winning that they are just emerging from now.
Things change quickly in this game and three or four years may seem like a lifetime to someone who has cancer (sorry to put it so bluntly)……..but the Mets need a game plan NOW……even while 162 games are being played this year. And Sandy, you are the main man………