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 reaction around the Mets’ Chris Young signing was wonderfully hyperbolic. It was a solid, short-term move that improves the product on the field in the near term with little longterm risk.
At Fangraphs, Dave Cameron praises the move, “I continue to believe that this will likely go down as one of the best free agent signings of the off-season….Young isn’t a sexy addition, but this is the kind of solid low cost move that smart teams are making these days.” Cameron believes that Young will bounce back to become roughly a league average hitter.
At ESPN, Keith Law doesn’t like the fit as much. Law argues that Young has not been the same player since his 2012 shoulder injury and that with Juan Lagares in center, moving Young to a corner will erode so much of his defensive value that he will be unable make up for it with his bat. “He’s an upgrade over any of the Mets’ internal options for those spots, but they won’t get maximum value from him if he’s not in center. Coming off of a year of replacement-level offense, there’s more risk involved in an investment in his bat than $7.25 million guaranteed would seem to indicate.”
Grant Bisbee was a little disappointed that the Giants lost out to the Mets on Young.
Jonah Keri reminds everyone that teams want to “TARGET” players coming off down years.
Allan Dykstra, 26, broke his fibula while playing winter ball in Venezuela, according to reports.
Dykstra was named one of the Mets Sterling Organizational Player of the Year in 2013 after posting a .436 OBP, with 21 home runs and 82 RBI at Double-A Binghamton.
According to the original tweet from Andereina Salas, Dykstra will return to the United States to have surgery on his leg.
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.
This week, the Columbia, SC City Council approved a $47,000 feasibility study for a new minor league ballpark by a 5-2 vote. This is merely the next step in a process that became public this past summer to return minor league baseball to South Carolina’s capital.
The planned new stadium in Columbia is supposed to help anchor the new Bull Street Development which is being planned and built on a 165 acre parcel that used to house an insane asylum.
This hardly guarantees that the Savannah Sand Gnats will move to Columbia, but it moves one step closer to Columbia building a stadium for a team. The Mets’ contract with Savannah is up at the end of the 2014 season, as well. If the Gnats do indeed move to Columbia, it might not be as a Mets affiliate.
On the other hand, remember, not all rumors come to pass. The Binghamton Mets were supposedly on their way to Ottawa last November.
MiLB.com is out with their Mets organization All-Stars for 2013. As MiLB.com helpfully explains, this is not a best prospect list, but instead honors “the players – regardless of age or prospect status – who had the best seasons in their organizations.”
MiLB.com has a quote from Paul dePodesta about each guy which makes the whole thing well worth reading.
So, for fun, lets compare MiLB.com’s list to say, the best Mets’ prospect at each position in my estimation.
|C||Kevin Plawecki||Kevin Plawecki|
|1B||Allan Dykstra||Dominic Smith|
|2B||Wilmer Flores||Flores or Dilson Herrera|
|3B||Zach Lutz||Lutz or Aderlin Rodriguez|
|SS||Wilfredo Tovar||Amed Rosario|
|OF||Travis Taijeron||Cesar Puello|
|OF||Cesar Puello||Brandon Nimmo|
|OF||Dustin Lawley||Champ Stuart|
|RHP Starter||Rafael Montero||Noah Syndergaard|
|RHP Starter (Honorable Mention)||Gabriel Ynoa||Ynoa or Montero|
|LHP Starter||Steven Matz||Steven Matz|
|Reliever||Jeff Walters||Jeff Walters|
C: Travis d’Arnaud has prospect eligibility, but given that he will start 2014 in the big leagues, for the purposes of the minor league system, Plawecki is pretty clearly the top catcher.
3B: This is probably the weakest position in the Mets’ minor league system. I know that David Wright is the Mets’ best player, but the system is really thin at third.
SS: Any Gavin Cecchini fans out there can argue he is the top SS prospect and not Rosario.
OF: Puello and Nimmo are pretty clearly the top two outfielders. After that, it’s really a matter of preference. If you want some big league value, Cory Vaughn and Darell Ceciliani will both play in the big leagues, but do not look likely to be starters. I’m very intrigued by Ivan Wilson and Champ Stuart from the 2013 draft class. Stuart has the tools to play center – he’s really fast and has a plus arm – so that moves him ahead of Wilson for now.
Reliever: Walters is probably the best relief prospect working as a reliever, given that Familia has too much big league time to qualify as a “prospect” and other guys who I view as relief prospects like Jacob deGrom (probably), Cory Mazzoni, Erik Goeddel, Logan Verrett and Domingo Tapia are all still starters.
Last night, the Mets announced that they had added four pitchers, three righties and a lefty, to their 40-man roster in advance of the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft. The team now has 40 players on the 40-man roster. They will have to trim a few spots if they plan to be active in the Rule 5 draft.
I wrote about LHP Matz, RHP deGrom and RHP Walters yesterday. Walters and deGrom have a chance to contribute to the Mets by the middle of 2014. Matz, the lone lefty in the group, and the lone a-baller, is the best left-handed prospect in the organization right now. He’s a little further away, but could be up by as soon as 2015.
Goeddel is the moderate surprise to me. In fact, I left him off my list of potential roster additions yesterday. I thought about adding him, but considered him too much of a long shot. Ooops.
The Mets drafted Goeddel in the 24th round of the 2010 draft out of UCLA, but paid him like a second rounder as a draft eligible sophomore. He’d had Tommy John surgery as an amateur which held down his innings in college, but he showed plus stuff in the 2010 College World Series as a Bruin, throwing 93-94 mph with an 86 mph slider.
Injuries have followed Goeddel most of the way through the minors, where the Mets have had Goeddel work as a starter. Shoulder and elbow inflammation limited him to one outing for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Mets in 2010. A sore right shoulder kept him out for a month with Savannah in 2011. Goeddel’s 2012 started last with St. Lucie with a strained groin.
Goeddel stayed healthy all the way through the 2013 season with AA Binghamton where he posted a 4.37 ERA in a career-high 25 starts over 134 innings. As a starter in AA, he gave up a hit an inning (135) walked 9.9% of opposing batters and struck out 21%. National League pitchers had a 19.9% and a 7.7% strikeout rate in 2013. Eastern League pitchers were similar, fanning 20.1% of opposing batters and walking 9.1%.
Given that those walk and strikeout ratios are already worse than Major League average in both categories, Given that Goeddel walks more batters than the average Eastern Leaguer, and the average National Leaguer, I am skeptical that he has the command to work through a linup multiple times as a big league starter.
As a starter, Goeddel’s velocity has been 89-92 for the most part, although he can reach back for more and touch 95. He’s a four-pitch guy with a curve, slider and changeup. Some nights in Savannah, the curve looked like a big league pitch and some nights the slider looked like a big league offering, but it seemed rare that he had both working at once. Some nights his fastball command was solid, others it was very erratic. According to Jeff Paternostro at Amazin’ Avenue, Goeddel remained fairly inconsistent appearance to appearance this year. Jeff far preferred Goeddel’s curveball to his slider in 2013. This year, he adjusted the grip on his changeup to increase the contrast with the fastball.
Goeddel, like deGrom and Walters has a chance to be a middle reliever, who will make his Major League debut in 2014 after a few months in Las Vegas.
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.
As with the MLB.com list, no Mets made Baseball America’s Top 20 prospect list for the Arizona Fall League.
However, Bill Mitchell spared a few words for Jeurys Familia in his “Other AFL Players to watch section:”
Quite a few righthanded relievers stood out this fall for their blazing fastballs. Jeurys Familia(Mets) was coming back from elbow surgery to remove bone spurs, but dominated hitters with a power fastball that gets up to 98 with on the sinker and a mid-80s slider.