Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With the Mets having multiple needs to fill this offseason and potentially not much wiggle room in the budget to do so, they are reportedly exploring creative ways to clear money from the payroll.
One thing they're considering is trading Jed Lowrie and/or Jeurys Familia and enticing potentially interested teams to take on the money owed to either player by attaching a "low-cost, zero-to-three" player to the deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Lowrie is signed through 2020 and is owed $10 million.
Familia is signed through 2021 and is owed $22 million.
When it comes to potential zero-to-three players the Mets might be willing to trade, possibilities could include J.D. Davis (under team control through 2024) and Dominic Smith (also under team control through 2024).
The Mets' apparent desire to trade one or both of Lowrie and Familia while attaching a young player to the deal could have to do with wanting to stay under the luxury tax for 2020. And it would be unfortunate if the team included a valuable player (such as Smith or Davis) in a salary dump in order to avoid the luxury tax when Smith or Davis could likely bring back valuable assets on his own -- or as part of a bigger trade.
The luxury tax for the 2020 season is $208 million, which means the Mets currently have roughly $20 million to play with if they want to stay under it.
Basically, if the Mets' desire is to attach a player like Davis or Smith to a salary dump, they would be throwing an otherwise valuable long-term asset into a trade in order to clear short-term money when they can simply exceed the luxury tax instead (and trade Smith and/or Davis for full value if they so choose).
At present, the Mets have $126 million committed to the payroll for 2020. But when you add in the combined salary of roughly $48 million that is expected to get paid to their arbitration-eligible players who were tendered contracts on Monday, that number climbs to $174 million. Their current expected luxury tax 40-man roster payroll, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, is $187.6 million.
Asked last month at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. if the Mets would be willing to exceed the luxury tax for 2020, Brodie Van Wagenen bobbed and weaved a bit.
"Our goal is to identify what the acquisition costs are of players and then make recommendations to the ownership group that we think are going to put the team in the best situation to succeed," Van Wagenen explained. "So we will do that. And if the luxury tax threshold becomes something we have to consider, then we will talk about it at that time."
Since the Mets have not exceeded the luxury tax threshold since the new rules went into effect before the 2003 season, their penalty in 2020 as a potential first-time offender would be minimal. Per the rules, a first-time offender must pay a 20 percent tax on every dollar their payroll exceeds the threshold.
For example, if the Mets' luxury tax payroll in 2020 wound up being $217 million, they would pay a 20 percent tax on the $9 million they went over.
As things currently stand, the Mets have only $69.4 million committed to payroll for 2021 -- when Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright are among those coming off the books. That number drops to $56.2 million in 2022 and $50.7 million in 2023. The Mets currently have zero committed to payroll for 2024 and beyond.
Since the Mets' payroll situation clears up significantly in 2021 and beyond, they should conceivably be able to exceed the luxury tax in 2020 before easily dropping back under the threshold in 2021.
Because of the above, the Mets should be focusing on adding to the roster without having to worry about potentially exceeding the luxury tax in 2020. And they should also be doing everything in their power to hold onto their most valuable prospects.
If the Mets play the short-term game -- trading prospects to fill needs instead of signing more expensive free agents and potentially attaching valuable trade chips to salary dumps -- they will likely be worse off in the long run. And Van Wagenen's goal of sustained winning could be much harder to attain.
After winning 86 games in 2019, the Mets are set up to contend in 2020 and beyond. But they have to be careful when building their team that they don't lose sight of the future.