After years of endless criticism and contempt of the owners of the New York Mets from fans of the team, there seems to be quiet on that front. That is the natural response to what happened late last Friday.
With Yoenis Cespedes on board, a dominant starting rotation and a payroll fit for a big market ball club, the Mets appear to be primed to succeed, both in the long-term and short-term variety.
While the pitchers will not be paid far below their value forever, the Mets are currently reaping the benefits of having young, talented players as opposed to older players who have reached free agency and signed large contracts. Indeed, other clubs must be envious of the Mets situation of five cheap aces for three more years, but this will not always be the case.
While signing all of their starters seems unlikely, given the current payroll it’s not unreasonable that three of them can be signed long-term. Because living in the present is boring and with such a good team there’s so little to worry about, let’s go through a likely scenario. These are the following contracts I would extend to starters.
Jacob deGrom: 6 years, $80 million. Extended after the 2016 season.
“Why so cheap?”
Jacob deGrom had the misfortune to be a rookie at 26, which means that throughout his prime he will be at arbitration levels. The Mets have all the leverage in these talks, and can extend deGrom a contract that will pay him more per year, keep him longer, and still make him a free agent at 33.
Of course, he may be content with his relatively small salary for the prospect of testing the market at 31. This would be a mistake. Teams will be hesitant to sign any 31-year-old to a lucrative deal, and while one would certainly bite, he’s still made less in his prime than he very well could have. The same team would just as likely sign him as a 33-year-old as well, so there’s that to keep in mind.
Steven Matz: 6 years, $130 million. Extended after 2019 season.
This one, by far, is the most tentative. While I have high hopes for him to be as good as he was in his debut season, 2019 is far away and projections are tough. However, as a pitcher due to hit free agency at 29 (a very common age), the Mets will have very little negotiating power for Matz to sign a team-friendly deal. That being said, 6 years $130 isn’t chump change and would likely place him within the top 20 most paid pitchers throughout the years of his contract. If he can average a 3.00 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP (and solid advanced stats, of course), then this is a very fair deal. He will then become a free agent at 33 (are you sensing a pattern?) and still likely have a decently sized contract left to be offered. This is a win-win for both team and player, and would be a sustainable model for the Mets to follow.
However, the final contract is where the Mets make their biggest commitment.
Noah Syndergaard: 8 years, $200 million. Extended after 2020 season.
Noah Syndergaard, the man decreed “Thor”, is already one of the most electrifying starters in baseball. I have no reason to believe that should change.
While still not held in the same light as fellow starters Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard could end up as better than both of them. This contract reflects that. It breaks my previous mold of not committing to pitchers after 33, and while this may not be the smartest idea, it just seems right.
Pitchers often lose velocity as they age and some quicker than others. Look at Tim Lincecum, who won two Cy Youngs early in his career lost his velocity earlier than most. Justin Verlander, while not out of gas quite yet, has also had issues with inconsistent velocity.
But Syndergaard is different from other pitchers, with his impressive 6’6” frame and easy delivery. Add in a devastating curveball and surprising fastball command and you can see why it’s easy to break my personal rule on older pitchers, which was built on the platform of an unpredictable game with grown men contorting their arms to make balls travel at speeds that would have a driver arrested on most highways. Syndergaard is that good.
The duo I left out is Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. That’s nothing personal, as Harvey and Wheeler are two of my favorite players (I have both of their jerseys, whatever that is worth), but I don’t see a way they clearly fit. On top of their pitchers, the Mets have young hitters to lock up, and with an assumed $150 million to work with, five very expensive pitchers don’t fit very well. Wheeler may not cost more than Matz, but I tend to like having a lefty in the rotation (particularly one as electric as Matz) and that was the tie-breaker.
Harvey, however, is all about cost. There is a near 100% chance as a Boras client that he will test the market and will have most teams vying for his services. At that point, the Mets will be bidding against the Dodgers, Red Sox, Dodgers, and, yes, the Yankees. I’m expecting Harvey to get somewhere in the range of 8 years, $240 million. While the Mets may be able to afford this, for that annual salary, the Mets could get close to paying the entirety of Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom with it. I truly enjoy having Harvey on the Mets, but I just don’t see a fit with the current payroll, and quite frankly I’d rather pay Syndergaard.
With these contracts, the Mets would be paying roughly $60 million per year to their top three starters. With an assumed $150 million payroll, that leaves $90 million in payroll for the remainder of the team.
This, like many other Mets content I’ve written, is purely hypothetical. It assumes a good deal including payroll, and an increase or decrease could change this whole analysis. However, it should assure fans that this rotation the Mets possess is not only inexpensive for a while, it’s also sustainable for another decade.
And, if winning a pennant isn’t good enough for you, this should very well do the trick.