Tuesday, the Rockies and A’s swapped oft-injured/disappointing lefthanders Brett Anderson and $2 million for Drew Pomeranz and minor leaguer Chris Jensen.
We’ve been running a series where we compare the players involved in trade packages to those in the Mets organization. This concept works a lot better when there are more players involved. Both the Dexter Fowler to the Astros and the Doug Fister to the Nationals deals involved at least three players. With more players, we can be a little looser about assigning a type of player and tweaking around the edges to make the values roughly match.
Anderson is the more expensive player, and the one who has performed better, when he’s healthy in the big leagues. He’s a groundball generating machine; his gb% has risen from 50.9% in 2009 to 54.6% in 2010 to 57.5% in 2011, to 59.8% in 2012 and then 62.9% in 2013. That’s as clear a trend as one could possibly hope to see. On the other hand, his games started and innings pitched by year has been heading in the opposite direction – falling each year.
. Games Started IP
2009 30 175.1
2010 19 112.1
2011 13 83.1
2012 6 35.0
2013 5 44.2
For his career, he owns a 3.81 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, and an 8.2 fWAR but only a 6.1 RA9-WAR. Those last two numbers illustrate well how the WAR metric for pitchers is calculated. RA9- WAR is read as “WAR calculated by runs allowed per nine innings. Standard fWAR uses FIP, which rewards groundballers.
Anderson’s injury history covers most of his body parts: head (concussion), lower back (stiffness/tightness), left elbow (strain/inflammation/Tommy John surgery), right knee (hyper extension), upper back (spasms), left thumb (sprain), right ankle (sprain), right foot (stress fracture). Is the Tommy John surgery in 2011 the most significant? Or is it the sum of all the injuries?
Anderson is no longer cheap, and cutting costs was clearly a major factor for the A’s. He is owed $8 million in 2014 and his contract calls for a club option of $12 million in 2015 with a $1.5 million buyout.
Anderson is not the kind of injury-risk pitcher the Mets have signed in the last few years. Instead, the Mets have made smaller one-year gambles on Chris Capuano ($1.5 million in 2011), Chris Young ($1.1 million in 2011 and a minor league deal in 2012), Shaun Marcum ($4 million in 2013), Daisuke Matsuzaka (MLB minimum in 2013). On a payroll at or below $90 million as the Mets have run recently and seem poised to run in 2014, the $8 million Anderson will earn in 2014, or more precisely, $6 million net the $2 million Oakland sent along, just does not fit.
Anderson is big (6’4″, 235 lbs) and can touch 93 mph with his fastball although he sits 91-92 mph.
Drew Pomeranz has pedigree. The Indians drafted him fifth overall in June 2010 out of Mississippi. A little over a year later, the Indians shipped him to Colorado to complete their trade for Ubaldo Jimenez.
What Pomeranz doesn’t have is results. He made four starts and four relief appearances a year ago for Colorado and gave up 25 hits and 15 runs in 21.2 innings. Most damning, moreso than the four home runs, were the 19 walks (!) against 19 strikeouts. He made 15 starts in AAA where he ran a 4.20 ERA, walked 9% of the opponent batters and fanned 26% in a season cut short by biceps tendonitis.
Stepping backward, Pomeranz put up good numbers across the board in 2011 with the Indians in AA in Akron. The Rockies promoted him to the big leagues after he was traded. While his topline ERA of 5.40 in four appearances is not impressive, the underlying stats say he was closer to holding his own: a strikeout rate of 17%, a walk rate of 6.5%, and a 2.59 FIP.
Pomeranz started 2012 in the big leagues, but the Rockies dispatched him to AAA after he ran a 4.70 ERA in his first five starts in which he had 20 strikeouts and 15 walks in 23 innings, that’s a strikeout rate of 18.5%, but a walk rate of 13.9%. Down in AAA, in the thin air of Colorado Springs, he was much better: 2.51 ERA in 9 starts and 46 strikeouts (22%) against 20 walks (9.4%) in 46.2 innings over nine starts. Note that his walk rate would still be above MLB or AAA averages. He finished 2012 in the Rockies’ rotation, eventually making 22 starts for a 4.93 ERA and a 4.81 FIP.
In terms of stuff, Pomeranz is extremely reliant on a fastball that averages 91 mph and a curveball in the upper 70s (that’s plus velocity) to go along with a seldom used changeup. In 2011 and 2012, he threw his fastball over 76% of the time – a rate that would have been the third-highest fastball usage among qualified MLB starters. At ESPN, Keith Law still calls Pomeranz’s curveball plus.
I forgot about Pomeranz’s other injury problems which include an appendectomy, and quad and hip issues. (Thanks Jay Jaffe.)
Pomeranz has a walk problem. It’s been over 9% in AAA and has spiked well above that in the big leagues. Oakland will have the luxury of sending him to AAA to try to get him right.
The Minor Leaguer
Chris Jensen is a big RHP (6’4″, 200) who the Rockies drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft from San Diego. In his age 22 season, he put up a 4.55 ERA with a 21% strikeout rate and a 5.8% walk rate in 152.1 innings in the hitter-friendly California League. Note however, that Jensen’s home ballpark in Modesto is one of the League’s two pitcher friendliest (along with San Jose). I probably saw Jensen in 2012 with Asheville, but whatever impression he made on me at the time did not survive a year and a half.
BP says Jensen was 91-94, touching 95 as a starter, with a 83-86 mph changeup and breaking ball at 77-80 that was inconsistent. Jordan Gorosh thinks he can be a “back-end starter who has the ability to log innings.” Law calls him “just a guy.”
The Mets really do not have a pitcher whose profile looks like Drew Pomeranz. Clearly, shedding Anderson’s salary was important to Oakland, in addition to the gamble on Pomeranz, who has 1.05 years of MLB service time. Thus, we will confine our search for comps to pre-arb players, preferably with something like a year of MLB service time or less.
Our service time/cheap requirement dispatches Dillon Gee and his 3.028 years of MLB service.
Jenrry Mejia and his 1.14 years of MLB service are close enough to Pomeranz. Mejia’s five start run in 2013 – 2.30 ERA, 27.1 IP, 27 K, 4 BB, was better than anything Pomeranz has strung together at the Major League Level. Mejia’s value should be depressed by the fact that, thanks to Tommy John surgery and Jerry Manuel, he’s thrown 100 innings in a season only once and never exceeded 110. Mejia’s injury problems post-Tommy John surgery make him a fellow traveler with Pomeranz and Andersen.
If you want no MLB success, with control problems think Jeurys Familia.
If you want no MLB success, with success in AA, think Cory Mazzoni. Like Pomeranz, Mazzoni will likely start the 2014 season in AAA.
Jensen could be Rainy Lara or Tyler Pill. I kinda like the Lara angle better. He’s a low 90s fastball guy, with a changeup and slider that is decidedly his third pitch. He has size (6’4″) and a 3.76 ERA in the Florida State League but underwhelming peripherals (16% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate).
I think this deal is something like Jenrry Mejia and Rainy Lara for Brett Anderson. Anderson was due a minimum of $9.5 million – his 2014 salary plus his buyout – at the time he was traded.
Colorado took the more expensive player, with a longer big league track record with a huge injury report. Oakland took the cheaper guy with a walk rate worse than average, no big league track record of success and a shorter injury report. Both guys are gambles in their way.
Let me be clear again: I don’t think Jenrry Mejia is a great match for Drew Pomeranz in many if not most respects. However, I’ve decided among Mets pitchers under team control, he’s the closest in value and fit given what Oakland appeared to be trying to accomplish.
Given the health risks on Anderson, and the cost, in dollars – especially on a ~$90 million payroll – and players, he made little sense for the Mets in the winter of 2013-2014.
We’re going to play a (fun?) game that matches Mets prospects/assets to those involved in trades for other teams.
Yesterday, we looked at the Dexter Fowler to the Astros deal. Today, by popular demand, we’ll examine the Doug Fister to the Nationals trade.
Doug Fister, who will always be Dog Fister to me, is a very good, and probably underrated pitcher. By FIP, he’s 10th in baseball in the last three years. By RA9-WAR he’s 15th at 12.4 (nearly identical to Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez and ahead of every Mets’ fans favorite: R.A. Dickey (12.0)).
The Nationals sent LHP Ian Krol, Robbie Ray and infielder Steve Lombardozzi to the Tigers for Fister.
The internet praised the Nationals and General Manager Mike Rizzo for his wheeling and dealing.
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs: “Maybe it’s the fact that Fister’s fastball sits at 89, or that he was a non-prospect for most of his days in the minor leagues, but barring an unknown injury that is about to wreck his value, it seems like 29 MLB teams are missing the boat on Doug Fister. If Fister were a free agent, he’d have been the best starter on the market by a good margin…..though, this just an outright robbery. In a market where the prices for mediocre pitchers are very high, the Nationals paid a moderate price for a very good pitcher.”
Keith Law at ESPN: “I can’t believe the Tigers couldn’t get more total value than this for Fister, who is easily a top 25-30 overall starter in the game; they might have traded more to fill needs than to maximize their return…. A lefty reliever, a backup at second and a non-top-100 prospect is just not a good return for two years of one of the top 30 starters in baseball.”
Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus is confused too. He calculates conservatively that Fister, who will earn ~$7 million in arbitration this winter, and more next time out, should be expected to provide ~$14 million in surplus value over the next two years. He writes, “Would a team pay $14 million for six years of Ray, six years of Krol, and four years of Lombardozzi? …. Or maybe there’s something else we’re missing…. It’s hard to believe that no other team would have offered a better package, had they all been aware of what Washington was about to give up … So where does that leave us? Either Dombrowski failed to shop Fister around, every other team failed to evaluate Fister properly, or none of us on the internet knows anything.”
Part of the answer, and it’s one Law hinted at, is that it appears Detroit was looking for a very specific combination of types of players when they set out to move a pitcher. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, via DJF, on Detroit’s Dave Dombrowski and his process for this move: “Dave’s great to deal with, he’s very candid and up front– he just said, ‘We looked at all of the organizations, and we’re looking for certain players, and we don’t know that we line up in trade with you guys.’ … So it was one of those things where we didn’t necessarily line up in trade… “
To read more of this story, click here
We’re going to play a fun game, match the Mets prospects/assets to those involved in trades for other teams. I don’t do this for every trade, only the ones that interest me for one reason or another.
Today we’ll take on the Rockies/Astros swap for Dexter Fowler and a PTBNL for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles.
Earlier this offseason, the Mets were rumored to be interested in trading Ike Davis for Dexter Fowler. On the same day they traded Fowler, the Rockies also “addressed” their first base hole, by signing Justin Morneau.
Fowler will be 28 in 2014, and has significant home road splits (.298/.395/.485 at Coors and .241/.333/.361 on the road in 1291 PA). He’s owed $7.35 million in 2014, and will be arbitration eligible in 2015 before becoming free agent for 2016. Still, he’s in the prime of his career, has been a league average hitter, and while the advanced metrics don’t like his work in center, he should be an asset defensively in a corner.
For the Mets, he would have been an improvement on Eric Young Jr. in the outfield at the least, and potentially much more. So, what did it take to bring him to the Astros?
Turns out, very little.
The right-handed Lyles was a good prospect in a bad Astros’ system who has never figured out the big leagues. Since making his big league debut in 2011, he owns a 5.35 ERA with 259 strikeouts against 117 walks in 377 innings with 431 hits allowed and a ERA+ of 74 (!) or an ERA- of 141 and a -2.8 bWAR overall. His Baseball America rankings rose from #6 after the 2008 season to #3 the following year to the top spot in the system after 2010 when he was the #42 prospect in baseball. Lyles has a four-seam fastball at 93 mph, a sinker at 92 mph, a slider in the upper 80s, a changeup at 83 and a curveball around 80-81 mph. He throws his two fastballs over 66% of the time combined. Every pitch he throws carries negative value at Fangraphs.
Lyles’ strikeout rates from the last three years have actually declined from 16.1% in 2011, to 15.8% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2013. Meanwhile, his walk rate has ticked up from 6.3% to 6.7% to 7.6% in the last three years. Lyles was a relatively low strikeout guy in AAA as well with a 14.4% strikeout rate in 2010 and 16.3% in 2011.
Lyles is young and has prospect pedigree. That’s about it. At ESPN, Keith Law argues that Lyles’ numbers have been hurt by throwing in front of Houston’s poor defenses the last few years, “… he has been below-average but above that replacement-level baseline when measured on his own performance. Lyles has a good feel for pitching and above-average control, suffering from his lack of any clear out pitch.”
The Mets do not have a Jordan Lyles – a failed former first round pitcher.
- Perhaps the closest the Mets’ current roster, offers, when taking into account only production, is Carlos Torres who bounced from the White Sox to the Rockies to the Mets in the last four seasons.
- Dillon Gee, who is older than Lyles, has been appreciably better, putting up a 2.2 bWAR in 2013 with a 3.80 RA9, his first year below 4.00.
- Jenrry Mejia had never really had any big league success either in 2010 or 2012, combined for a -0.1 bWAR between those two years. Then, in 2013, after returning from Tommy John surgery, he returned with better fastball command, more feel on his changeup and a new slider that helped him to a 2.30 ERA/2.96 RA9 and a 0.5 bWAR in just five starts.
- Statistically, perhaps the best match for Lyles in the Mets’ system is former second round pick Cory Mazzoni. in AA this past summer, Mazzoni had a strikeout rate of 26.2%, a 6.7% walk rate, an opponents’ batting average of .268 and a 4.36 ERA/2.70 FIP. In 2010 in AA, Lyles had a 21.3% strikeout rate, a 6.5% walk rate, a .266 opponents’ batting average, and a 3.12 ERA/3.36 FIP.
If we divorce position from the discussion, the Met most like Lyles – a former first rounder who has flopped in the big leagues recently – is the guy the Rockies were rumored to be interested in: Ike Davis. He hit just .205/.326/.334 in 2013 on his way to a 0.2 bWAR. That leaves out his productive, but short 2011, and his long slog through 2012 when he was still worth 0.9 bWAR.
The second player the Rockies acquired,, Brandon Barnes, who will be 28 in May 2014, is a 4th outfielder. He’s hit .233/.282/.330 in his two partial big league seasons in 2012 and 2013. Barnes is not as good as the 4th outfielder the Rockies traded to the Mets in 2013: Eric Young Jr., himself a career .258/.325/.338 hitter in 404 big league games.
If the Rockies were not interested in reacquiring Young, perhaps 25-year old Matt den Dekker (.207/.270/.276 in 63 PA) would have sparked their interest as an extra outfielder.
So, after picking up Lyles for the back of their rotation, and a Barnes for their bench, the Rockies signed Justin Morneau, who will turn 33 in 2014, for two years at $13 million. The great Dan Szymborski fired up his ZiPs machine to project “Morneau in Colorado 2014: 280/343/457, 104 OPS+ 0.9 WAR. 2015: 277/339/453, 102 OPS+, 0.5 WAR.”
Again, Morneau’s 2014 projection is awfully similar in bWAR to what Ike Davis actually produced in 2012. And Davis would probably be $3 to $5 million cheaper over the next two years. Of course, there’s that messy issue of 2013 as well.
From the Rockies perspective if they had done the deal with the Mets for say Ike Davis and Matt den Dekker for Fowler, they would have needed to add a starting pitcher from the free agent market or another trade. Those – free agent pitchers – are expensive, but most are better than Lyles. Also, Morneau is a safer bet than Davis, although Davis has more upside given their ages.
A package from the Mets centered around Dillon Gee for Dexter Fowler would have given the Rockies a better pitcher, although without the coveted “former Top Prospect” tag that Lyles carries.
Or maybe the Mets felt that they were better off committing the $7.25 million they would have had to pay Fowler to Chris Young, who will cost only money and not players. Still, the Mets have an open outfield spot remaining. An outfield of Juan Lagares/Young/Fowler, all three with centerfield pedigree, would have been very good defensively (and run a low batting average, but we digress).
Given the Rockies’ moves Tuesday, it certainly seems as though the Mets had the pieces to have acquired Dexter Fowler from Colorado. Fowler is younger than the remaining major free agent outfielders, like Curtis Granderson and Shin Soo Choo, and will require a fraction of the financial commitment.
The Mets designated five players for assignment two pitchers – Scott Atchison and Jeremy Hefner – and three position players – Justin Turner, Omar Quintanilla and Jordany Valdespin. I had both Scott Atchison and Omar Quintanilla, who were both arbitration eligible for the second time, and Justin Turner, who was arb eligible for the first time, projected to earn $1 million in 2014.
Jeremy Hefner and Jordany Valdespin would have been due Major League minimum contracts worth $500,000.
In sum, then, the Mets saved roughly $4 million off of the 2014 payroll by non-tendering these five players. None of the moves should have been the slightest bit surprising. Justin Turner was worth 0.5 fWAR last year. No quantity of clubhouse smiles makes him a key part of a winning baseball team. Quintanilla (-0.3 fWAR) and Valdespin (-0.4 fWAR) were both replacement level players.
Atchison was a low strikeout reliever (5.56 K/9) who was similarly below replacement level (-0.1 fWAR).
Hefner had his moments, but in an ERA where offense is declining, his 4.34 ERA over 23 starts only produced a 0.3 fWAR in 2013. Baseball Reference’s accounting suggests that he was below replacement level in 2012 (-0.3 WAR) and 2013 (-0.8 WAR). Given that he will miss all of the 2014 season with Tommy John surgery, he was just wasting a roster spot and half a million bucks to the 2014 Mets. Ideally, by 2015, the Mets will have less use for sub-replacement level pitchers.
My updated 2014 Mets payroll projection (Mets Payroll 12-2) now puts the Mets hard and soft commitments at $70.66 million. Again, that’s by evenly distributing Jason Bay’s $15 million between 2014 and 2015. If the team is really planning on exceeding last year’s $87 million salary number, they now must spend $17 million to do so.
The Mets also now have five open spots on the team’s 40-man roster.
I spent time this morning revising my post below trying to make sense of the Mets’ payroll. This included reading the CBA, and that’s always a hoot.
Anyway, I believe my original point stands better now. If the Mets are to eclipse last year’s $87 million payroll, they must add only about $13 million in salary for 2014 given a current baseline.
Issues with the Previous Analysis
1. Buyouts are Signing Bonuses for Luxury Tax Purposes
First and foremost, I learned something: for the purposes of the competitive balance tax, buyouts get treated as signing bonuses, and are prorated over the guaranteed years of a player’s contract (CBA XXIII, E-5-b). Thus, Santana’s $5.5 million buyout was treated asa $0.92 bonus over the first six guaranteed years (FOR TAX PURPOSES). How that changes the Mets’ accounting on Bay and Santana, I have no idea, although I suspect not much.
As I now understand it, this does not change the way in which the teams pay out the buyout, which happens before an option year, just the way the CBA counts that buyout money against team payroll.
2. Don’t Forget Players
I left a few players who played for the Mets in 2013 out of my original post.
I omitted Aaron Harang, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Aardsma, Rick Ankiel, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Laffey and Sean Henn from the Mets’ 2013 payroll for no other reason than I forgot about them. (Stands to reason, they were all awesome.) This octet combined for $1,081,600 in my estimation system, although I did not apply any adjustments to the minimum veterans’ salaries, so I suspect they earned more than that.
Service Time Adjustments
I credited Josh Edgin with a full season in the big leagues, and a full year of MLB salary when he spent all of May and the first week of June in the minors. This overstated his cost to the Mets by about $113,000.
I neglected to give Wilfredo Tovar credit for his week and a half in the big leagues and the extra ~$58k he earned that way.
If I do nothing to my earlier signing bonus accounting, the tweaks I made to these 10 players pushed my estimate of the Mets’ 2013 payroll up to $88,410,960.
This includes all payments to players who were on the team’s 40-man roster, while they were in the majors and minors.
I have excluded the $0.25 million the Mets paid the Pirates as part of the John Buck/Marlon Byrd/Vic Black/Dilson Herrera swap and any other cash swaps as part of trades.
I’m still treating the buyouts as lump-sum payments due at the end of the guaranteed years. This is wrong relative to the CBA’s accounting, but matches when the bonuses are actually paid out in the real world.
The next step will be correcting that. Again, here’s my working spreadsheet (Mets Payroll) if you want to play along.
I’m leaving this issue for the day. I believe that my original point is still valid. Sandy Alderson’s proclamations that the Mets’ 2014 payroll will exceed 2013′s $87 million commits the Mets to spending, at this point, a minimum of $13 million more and possibly $20 if Jason Bay’s impact is removed. So, Mets fans can and should expect to see the Mets adding some players and salary moving forward.
Of course, players are not only measured in salary, and the idea is to add good major league players. The Mets could use more of those whether they can play the outfield, SS, or pitch. Adding good or even great players in free agency is awfully expensive. And that circles right back to the budget.
Last week, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told the world that the Mets’ 2014 payroll would be higher than their 2013 payroll, calculated at $87 million. This was reported as major Mets news. It’s really just a promise to spend in the neighborhood of $15 million in additional money on the 2014 team.
Forget what you’ve read elsewhere about the Mets’ payroll flexibility this winter. It is exaggerated. The Mets already have over $70 million committed to their 2014 payroll already. They should surpass that $87 million with ease. In fact, that $87 million is just a floor, and a very low one given the team’s existing commitments.
I confess that November’s $87 million number was new to me, but that’s my fault. Alderson first used it at the Mets’ September 30 end-of-season press conference.
- Per Adam Rubin, at ESPNNY, “Alderson said excluding the money owed to former Met Jason Bay, the Mets payroll for this past season ended up around $87-88 million.“
- At the New York Daily News, Kristie Ackert heard Alderson’s September comments as foreshadowing a similar payroll in 2014: “Alderson, who said the payroll will be around $87 million-$88 million, described himself as finally being free from financial constraints he has had to deal with…”
- Mike Puma in the New York Post, “Alderson said the Mets’ payroll this year — excluding the deferred payments still owed to Jason Bay — was in the $87 million to $88 million range. “
Baseball Prospectus’ invaluable Cot’s Contracts listed the Mets’ 2013 Opening Day payroll at $93,684,590. By shifting much of Jason Bay’s money from 2013 to 2014 and 2015, and carefully accounting for the team’s in-season moves, I could match the Mets’ own $87 million estimate.
- the Mets spent $87,582,860 on the team’s 40-man payroll in 2013. (There were many small adjustments that went into creating this estimate, so focus on the big numbers to the left, rather than a false sense of precision over the last dollar.)
- The team has over $74.5 million committed in 2014, depending a little on how Bay’s money is split between 2014 and 2015.
First, a caveat: I was unable to duplicate the math that produced Cots Opening Day number precisely, but I could get close.
I credited minor league players, who were on the 40-man roster, but not in the big leagues as earning $39,900, as the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement demands. My estimate on Opening Day payroll landed $889,040 over Cots’ estimate, so I suspect Cots was shorting the minor leaguers a few bucks, perhaps by using an old minor league minimum. For our purposes, that wiggle room under $1 million is well within the margin of error.
The major discrepancy between the Mets’ accounting and Cots’ estimation is the treatment of Bay and Santana’s money. When the Mets released Bay last November, they owed him $21 million. Of that, $6 million was to be paid in 2013 while $15 million was to be paid out in 2014 and 2015 to be paid out in five installments. Cots included almost all of Jason Bay’s money in the 2013 number – a clear mistake – but did not include Johan Santana’s $5.5 million buyout.
At one time, like November 2012, the Mets planned to count all of Bay’s money – the scheduled $16 million salary, the $3 million buyout, and the $2 million that was left of his signing bonus – against their 2013 budget. By September 2013, the Mets were excluding at least the $12-15 million the team still owes Jason Bay in 2014 and 2015 from 2013 payroll numbers, but including Santana’s buyout. In essence, the team was counting only their actual 2013 payroll obligations of $6,125,000 to Bay in 2013′s budget. That makes sense. But the team still owes Jason Bay lots and lots of money. Will that zombie-like, undead money return to the 2014 payroll? The 2015 payroll? I suspect the answer is yes.
To match the Mets’ own estimate of $87-$88 million on 2013 salaries, I made the following adjustments:
- added Santana’s $5.5 million buyout to his $26.5 million salary. (Note: as commenters have pointed out below, $5 million of Santana’s contract was deferred every year, and then is payable seven years after it was “earned.” The Mets will be paying Santana then until 2020. I treated all of Santana’s money as due in 2013. In truth, then, the Mets’ actually paid out $5 million less in 2013 than I have accounted for.)
- cut Bay’s 2013 compensation to $6.125 million
- Prorated everything to account for MLB service time. This includes:
- the MLB contracts of DFA victims Collin Cowgill (45% of the season) and Brandon Lyon (53%)
- the MLB contracts of traded players like John Buck, Marlon Byrd, Collin McHugh, Eric Young Jr. and Vic Black
- the MLB and minor league time of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, Zach Lutz, Robert Carson, Travid d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Gonzalez Germen, Juan Lagares, Zack Wheeler, Omar Quinatanilla, Vic Black, Carlos Torres, Josh Satin, Andrew Brown, Matt den Dekker and Juan Centeno
- I created an estimate of the percentage of the season a player spent on the active 25-man roster, and credited him with an MLB salary during that time, and assigned him a minor league salary for the rest of the year during which he was a Mets employee
- In the case of Nieuwenhuis, Lutz, Young, Torres, Carson, Satin and Brown and their ilk, all of whom had big league time prior to 2013, I used a minor league minimum of $80,000. The rules governing players like this, with big league time, but in their second or third season on a 40-man roster are complicated. Each player has an individualized salary floor depending on their previous season’s earnings, but for our purposes, whether they were making a prorated portion of $100,000 or $80,000 or something in between, in their minor league time, these numbers are close enough.
I made the following assumptions about the 2014 salaries:
1. ADDED IN $7.5 MILLION for JASON BAY. The Mets owe Jason Bay $15 million more after 2013. It could be that the team is splitting it $7.5 and 7.5 in the next two years or $6 million and $9 million, or some other more funky looking arrangement.
2. added arbitration raises to Arb2 players Dan Murphy ($6 M), Bobby Parnell ($3M), Scott Atchison ($1 M) and Omar Quintanilla ($1 M) consistent with Baseball Reference’s projections.
3. added arbitration raises to Arb1 players Ike Davis ($4 M), Dillon Gee ($3 M), Lucas Duda ($2 M), Eric Young Jr. ($2 M), Ruben Tejada ($1 M) and Justin Turner ($1 M) again consistent with Baseball Reference’s projections.
4. assigned Major League minimum salaries ($500,000) to the remainder of the Mets’ 40-man roster. In cases where the player had earned over $500,000 in any previous season, that player got credit for the extra salary (Scott Rice and Jeremy Hefner). This will deliberately understate the Mets’ 2014 payroll (but by less than a $1 million).
5. I made no adjustments for projecting Major League roster time. So, in my analysis, a guy like Juan Centeno is carrying the full MLB minimum of $500,000 whereas he will probably begin the year in AAA, earning the minor league minimum for a player on his second 40-man year of $81,500. This type of adjustment is relevant for the last few roster spots in the bullpen and in the outfield. This will overstate the Mets’ 2014 payroll (but by less than $3 million.)
The following chart explains all of this in numbers. The column on the left is the player’s Major League contract according to Cots. The middle column is an adjusted estimate of the player’s actual payroll to the 2013 Mets depending on my accounting of his time on the active 25-man roster. The final column is a projection for that player’s salary for the 2014 Mets.
|Brandon Lyon||750,000||402,750||DFA (7/9/13)|
|Marlon Byrd||700,000||567,000||FA (Phi)|
|Greg Burke||550,000||550,000||FA (Col)|
|Robert Carson||39,900||160,000||DFA (LAA)|
|Matt den Dekker||95,000||500,000|
Here’s the major takeaway: Bay’s contract really matters.
By removing the remainder of Jason Bay’s contract from the 2013 accounting and shifting it evenly to 2014 and 2015, the Mets can add as little as $13 million in net payroll to their 40-man roster as currently constructed, to make Alderson’s statement that the team would exceed last year’s $87 million in payroll, true. Or they could just count more of Jason Bay’s money against 2014.
Using the same assumption about splitting Bay’s money evenly, if the Mets do successfully trade Ike Davis and DFA Jordany Valdespin and Zach Lutz, for example, they would remove $5 million in payroll. In this scenario, they would need to add $18 million in payroll to exceed 2013′s number.
Even imagining a world where the Mets’ future commitments to Jason Bay just disappear from the 2014 and 2015 calculations, Alderson’s recent public statements hardly suggest a free-spending Mets. Removing all of Bay’s money from 2014 takes the team’s current commitments down to $67 million. At that point, the team would need to spend $20 million to surpass 2013′s payroll level.
The playing time adjustments to the 2013 salaries are much less important in the overall accounting than the $5.5 million of Santana’s buyout and the $15 million of deferred money to Jason Bay. Still, they matter. Assigning a full MLB minimum to every player who played for the Mets in 2013 would overstate payroll by a few million. In the same way, ignoring the mostly young players would shuffled on and off the roster totally would understate payroll.
The magnitude of any individual arbitration award is not terribly important. All could be, and likely will be, a little off from my estimate, but given that the Mets have enough arbitration-eligible players – six in their first year, and four in their second – it should all more or less cancel out. Thus, my final payroll estimate for 2014, which assigns an increase of $13.5 million for these ten players, is not too sensitive to any single arbitration salary. It also seems likely that one or two of these arbitration-eligible players will be traded before Opening Day 2014.
The Mets structured David Wright’s salary as $11 million in 2013 and then $20 million in 2014. In a world where the Mets are not significantly expanding payroll that $9 million increase eats away at the team’s flexibility.
This is not supposed to be encouraging. It also explains, in part, why the Mets never went really hard after say, Jhonny Peralta, a useful player who fit their needs, but who signed a contract worth $13 million annually with St. Louis.
This analysis has not really touched on what the Mets need to do to build a contending team out of a group that won 74 games in 2013 and will be approaching 2014 without Matt Harvey, its best pitcher. It just explains the minimum they need to do to make Sandy Alderson’s statements regarding an increase in payroll from 2013 to 2014 from September and November 2013 true.
Alderson has promised a minimum of $13 million net spending after adding Chris Young on the 2014 roster moving forward. The real questions is how much beyond the $13 million minimum, the Mets have to spend AND relatedly, how they are accounting for Jason Bay’s money. Can they get to $100 million through free agency or trades? Or build a winner on less?
Further Research and Resources
The spreadsheet I used to calculate salaries based on roster time is here (Mets Payroll) if you would like to explore it yourself or check my math. I color-coded the guys who are arbitration eligible to track how those awards or negotiations changes the overall budget outlook.
The full text of the CBA is here.
The Mets’ 2013 transactions are here.
The Mets have reportedly come to terms with OF Chris Young on a one-year, $6 million contract for 2014. ESPN places the value of the contract at $7.25 million.
Young, who turned 30 in September, had a bad 2013 with Oakland, hitting .200/.280/.379 with 18 doubles, 12 homers, 36 walks and 93 strikeouts in 107 games. He was worth 0.2 bWAR and 0.5fWAR. And yet, this is a solid signing.
Young was a very productive player from 2010-11 with the Diamondbacks, putting up fWAR of 4.1 and 4.5 in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and bWAR of 5.5 and 5.0 for those same seasons. (The point is not that one WAR system is right or wrong, but that they both saw his contributions in 2010-11 as in the range of “very good.”) He hit a little above average, running a wRC+ of 109 and 102 in 2010 and 2011 respectively, combined with excellent defense in center. Young was, at that time, the player Mets’ fans hope Juan Lagares can be.
Young’s 2012, his age 28 season, was not as strong as his previous two years. He started late with a right shoulder separation and then his September was interrupted by a quad strain. Still, his offensive contribution in 2012 (98 wRC+) was close to 2011′s level (102). The difference was largely the result of a slight erosion in his walk rate from 12.1% in 2011 to 9.9% in 2012 and a decline in his BABIP from .296 in 2010, to .275 in 2011 to .263 in 2012. His defense in CF 2012, by UZR/150, graded out even better than in his two-season 2010-11 peak.
In 2013 everything got worse. His walk rate slipped a tick down to 9.6%, his lowest rate since 2008, while his strikeout rate climbed to 24.8%, his highest rate since 2009. His BABIP of .237 was his lowest of his Major League career. His BABIP drop can be significantly explained by the decline in Young’s ground ball percentage, which went from 33.7% in 2010 to 28.6% by 2013. That 5% drop was more or less replaced by infield fly balls in his batted ball profile. Why the change in batted ball profile? Was he cheating to get under pitches to drive them and instead popping them up? Was he dipping his back shoulder? Dropping his hands? I don’t know, but I would wager that there is a mechanical swing explanation. In 2013, for the first time in his career, his production on fastballs, per 100 pitches was negative. Defensively, he was a plus corner outfielder by UZR, but below average in center in only 381 innings – the equivalent of a quarter of a season.
The decline in Young’s 2013 walk rate can be explained by his in/out zone swing percentages. In 2013, his O-swing%, that is the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone at which he swung, was a career-high 28.3%. In his 2010, 11, and 12 that number was 22%, 26.5% and then 24.7%. In 2013, his Z-Swing %, that his the percentage of strikes at which he swung was 61.8%, also a career-high, narrowly edging out 2011.
Over the span of his career, he has a significant platoon split, bopping lefties at a .262/.363/.474 rate in 1138 PA while hitting .225/.295/.415 against righties in 2825 PA.
To return to his 2010-2012 peak, he will need to cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. That sounds like Mets’ hitting coach Dave Hudgens’ strong teaching suit. Increased selectivity for Young could bring his infield popup rate back down.
Is Chris Young worth $7.25 million on a one-year deal? Most assuredly so. David Murphy just signed a two-year $12 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. Murphy was every bit as bad as Young in 2013 (.220/.282/.374, 73 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR) if not worse. Murphy’s two years older and his best season (2012) was not as good as Young’s best (2010 and 2011). Young is better than Murphy, younger and comes with a lower total dollar amount.
The price of real MLB outfielders, coming off down years, in their age 30-32 seasons, who can play good defense, have platoon splits and nearly four-win seasons on their resume is now apparently $6 million-ish per year.
Chris Young could certainly perform better for the Mets in 2014 than he did in Oakland in 2013. Any return towards his 2010-2012 form will help the blue and orange. His signing makes the 2014 Mets a little bit better. It does not make them a favorite in the NL East or for a wild card slot. It just makes them incrementally better. As a first step to a more productive outfield, Young fits the bill. Even if Young does not hit better in 2014 than he did in 2013, or he gets hurt, or both, there is absolutely zero long term risk. The Mets have not attached themselves to Young’s decline phase past his age-30 year and the 2014 season.
If the Mets put Young in an outfield corner, say right, they can expect above average defense, and a very dangerous bat against left-handed pitching. Ideally, the Mets would pair him with a lefty hitting outfielder who can play against many of the right-handed pitchers the team will face to produce better value out of the same corner outfield spot. An outfield that begins with Juan Lagares in center and Chris Young in right, should be well above average defensively.
Also, as the picture at right makes clear, Young has outstanding choice in hosiery, which is almost as important as whether a baseball player can hit, field, and run the bases.
The deadline to add minor league players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the rule 5 draft is midnight, tonight.
Every player who signs at 19 years old or older, has three drafts worth of protection. Guys who signed below 19 have four years of protection. Thus, college draftees from 2010 and high school and international signees from 2009 and earlier can be drafted this year.
Remember, in the Major League phase of the draft, the drafting team must hold the newly acquired player on their active 25-man major league roster all year (or DL) to keep that guy.
The Mets currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster.
Adding players is not costless. Rather, the cost is a 40-man roster spot. The Mets need their players on the 40-man big league roster providing big league value, if not now, in the very near future. Also, if a player is added to the 40-man roster, and is sent to the minors, he begins using one of his three option years. Basically, it only makes sense to add players who can realistically help a big league team in the next two years, or possess something else extremely valuable.
If I were doing it, here are the decisions I would make.
RHP Jacob deGrom
What he is: Lean righthander who can touch 96 with his sinker. He’s struggled to improve his slider, so the Mets worked to teach him a curveball this year.
Why he’s eligible: drafted out of Stetson in 2010, he lost the 2011 season to Tommy John surgery.
His role: Likely middle reliever who comes in and airs it out in short bursts, because hey, 94-96 with sink is hard to hit. If he improves his breaking ball dramatically, he could remain a starter.
RHP Jeff Walters
What he is: Sinker/slider righthander who set a Binghamton Mets record for saves in 2013. Saves are a stupid stat, and worthless moving forward, but he’s shown that he can be an effective reliever at AA with a fastball from 92-94 and a slider.
Why he’s eligible: The Mets drafted him in the seventh round in 2010 out of the University of Georgia.
His role: Middle reliever. He should start 2014 in AAA with Las Vegas and will likely be up in the big leagues by July.
LHP Steven Matz
What he is: The best left-handed pitching prospect in the New York Mets system. Matz was very effective for Savannah in 2013 putting up a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 38 walks in 106.1 innings. He struck out 28% of opposing batters and walked 8.9%. He was up to 97 mph with his fastball, and regularly 92-95 with his heat. There just are not enough left-handed pitchers with this kind of velocity to leave Matz unprotected.
I thought at the time, his changeup flashed as a plus Major League pitch with arm speed and sink.
As I wrote in September, “there was a time early in the year when Matz and Savannah Pitching Coach Frank Viola were trying to make this breaking ball a slider, but by the second half of the South Atlantic League season, they had abandoned that effort to focus on his curveball, which was his primary breaking ball in high school and early professional career. The pitch indeed shows promise with, when it’s right, good depth and late movement. It can get sweepy and he has trouble locating it for a strike. However, there are fewer spinners than when he was trying to work on his slider. If memory serves, he did not throw a single strike with his curveball in his final start of the playoffs in the Gnats’ clinching win in Game Four of the SAL playoffs.”
Why he’s eligible: drafted in the second round in 2009 out of Ward Melville HS as an 18-year old. Tommy John surgery in 2010, and then complications from that surgery kept him off the field in 2010 and 2011.
His role: Well, he will be in the St. Lucie rotation in 2014.
Longterm, if he can learn to throw his curveball for strikes, and improve his own fastball command, he will be an above average MLB starter. Matz had a reverse platoon split in 2013, so, given his current arsenal, I am not at all convinced that he will move well to the bullpen as a left-handed specialist.
vs. RHH: .214/.291/.289, 29% K, 8% BB – 328 PA
vs. LHH: .261/.340/.352, 25% K, 11% BB – 100 PA
Left-handed relief specialists usually are fastball/breaking ball.
Further: Matz should start 2014 in advanced-A St. Lucie. As long as he’s good there, he will end 2014 in AA Binghamton. That gives him a chance to make the big leagues in 2015.
On the Outside Looking In
In order of consideration for a 40-man addition.
LHP Adam Kolarek - fastball/curveball guy who works mostly 90-92. He was effective in AA in 2013, putting up a 1.71 ERA and a 63/22 K/BB. Across AA and a few AAA innings, he held left-handed batters to a .214/.287/.250 line with a 23/8 K/BB ratio for a 24% strikeout rate and a 8.5% walk rate. Righties hit him for a little more power, going .209/.293/.356 against him with a 41/17 K/BB ratio 22% strikeout rate and a 9.2% walk rate. His straight fastball sneaks up on lefties.
OF Cory Vaughn – Platoon outfielder coming off a .250/.320/.375 line in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League. I wonder if the two-year $12 million contract David Murphy has signed would make the Mets think twice about exposing Vaughn, who has hit lefties well (.296/.401/.528 total 2011-2013) in each of his stops in the minor leagues in the last three years.
OF Darrell Ceciliani - The 23-year-old hit .268/.322/.380 in 112 games for AA Binghamton in 2013. He put up a .718 OPS vs. RHP and a .653 OPS vs. LHP this year. He’s a defensive-minded fourth outfielder who could play center or left. It’s hard to see a Major League team putting him on their 40-man roster for 2014 to play center against RHP only.
LHP Darin Gorski - Gorski was lights out (1.83 ERA, 67 K/22 BB/46 H) in 78.2 innings in AA, after getting bombed for 17 runs in 13.2 innings in AAA to start the year. His fastball lost velocity this year, and was back down to mid-upper 80s. His best pitch is his changeup, but he is hurt by a lack of separation from his fastball.
INF Reese Havens - the second of three Mets’ picks in the first round of the 2008 draft, at 22 overall, Havens hit .237/.312/.330 in 38 games with Las Vegas as a 26-year-old in 2013. Injuries have killed his potential for a meaningful Major League career.
Baseball America has Trackman data up from the Arizona Fall League. It’s like pitch fx on steroids. There’s some fun stuff in here.
A few Mets farmhands appeared on leaderboards.
Small sample size warnings abound.
Jeurys Familia – #8 (96 mph).
Topped out at 98.2. Man, what he could do with a little bit of command.
Fastball Spin Rate
Hansel Robles – #12 (2,465 avg RPM).
More spin means less sink or a straighter fastball with more “rise” and thus, in theory, strikeouts and flyouts. Per pitch fx, Robles sat at 90.66 mph. Pitching up in the zone with such a heater seems like a dangerous versus Major League hitters. There were few swings and misses. Batters swung and missed at two of Robles’ 59 fastballs in the AFL, a whif rate of 3.39%.
Slider Spin Rate
Chasen Bradford – #11 (2,683 rpm)
MLB average, per BA is “around 2,400 rpms.” So, translated, Bradford’s slider has an above average MLB spin rate and velocity at 85 mph. Bradford throws his slider a lot. By pitchfx tracking, he used the pitch 43% of the time in the AFL. Among all MLB relievers who threw 30 or more innings last year, only 10 guys threw sliders that much. Bradford had a 33% whiff rate (6/18) on his slider in the AFL, which is pretty good. If Bradford makes it, he would do so largely as a slider specialist. And for a short reliever, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the Rays built their bullpens on one-pitch wonders.
Yesterday, I wrote that Curtis Granderson was not worthy a four-year contract and that the Mets should stay away.
Now comes word, or rumor, that the Mets are interested in former Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. According to Kristie Ackert in the Daily News, “the Mets are going hard after (and may be the early leader for) Nelson Cruz.” Jon Heyman at CBSSports also thinks the Mets are “in on” Cruz. However, Adam Rubin at ESPNNY wrote that “a team insider severely downplayed to ESPNNewYork.com the likelihood of signing either [Nelson or Cruz].”
As with a lengthy contract for Granderson, a three-year deal for Cruz would be a similar mistake. At ESPN, Jim Bowden predicted that Cruz would earn a three year contract for $48 million, for an average annual value of $16 million. The crowd-sourced project at Fangraphs saw him as signing for 3 years/$31.8 million or $10.6 annually.
Here are the most relevant facts:
1. Cruz is 33 years old. Most 33 year old baseball players decline rapidly.
2. He is not special. His baseball reference WAR the last three years: 1.3, 0.4, 2.0. He has one season above 2.3 in his career, his age 28 season in 2010 with Texas (4.3). Fangraphs WAR from the last three years: 1.3, 1.1, 1.5.
3. In his career away from Texas, he has hit .242/.299/.435 in 1590 PA. No, this is not a small sample.
4. Since turning 30, he has hit .263/.319/.489 in 392 games over three years in 129 games a year.
5. As the recipient of a qualifying offer, he will cost the Mets a second round pick.
Less relevant to me, but germane to many: he was suspended 50 games in 2013 for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic. Mets fans should recognize that players with PED suspensions can come back and hit (ahem: Marlon Byrd).
There is already a literature about the dangers of signing Cruz including Dave Schoenfeld at ESPN, and Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and USS Mariner.
We played this game yesterday with Curtis Granderson, but lets take a look at Cruz’s top 10 most similar hitters and how they have aged in their age 33 seasons and beyond. Again, the WAR listed is bWAR and accounts for all of the value these players provided in their year XX seasons and every one after. Again, I have eliminated players whose careers ended in 1970 and earlier.
Uhhhhhh. [runs away screaming]
Starting in their age 33 seasons, these eight players totaled 14 WAR, an average of two per player. However, to be fair to Cruz, five of these guys, Hawpe, Willingham, Werth, Ross and Ludwick have not completed their age-35 seasons, the potential third year of Cruz’s deal. On the other hand, they have not aged well.
However, in their recently completed age-34 seasons, they accumulated the following bWAR:
Cody Ross was worth 2.5 wins in Arizona in his age 32 season.
Jayson Werth’s 2013 was better than any single one of Nelson Cruz’s seasons. Werth has three seasons – 2009, 2010, 2013 – that are as good as Cruz’s best in 2010, which itself was an aberration in Cruz’s career. There is no reason to think that Cruz will magically get dramatically better in his age 33 and 34 seasons, like to peak Werth level.
If the price of a win on the free agent market is really $7 million, signing Cruz for two years at $10-12 million per year for a total of $20-24 could give a team some short-term right-handed power assuming he can average 1.5-1.7 wins the next two years. Anything else is just throwing good money after bad for the decline years of a player who is not that good to begin with.
Do the Mets need outfield help? Oh, yes. Do they need Nelson Cruz at anything longer than a two year commitment? Oh, no.
See, the secret to contention is not actually signing corner outfielders in their mid-30s to lengthy deals. Shhhhhh…..