The Mets began selling Thursday, with Lucas Duda shipped to Tampa Bay for reliever Drew Smith
Duda had been poised to be a free agent this winter, and the Mets would not have entertained re-signing him because of prospect Dominic Smith's readiness for the majors.
With contracts also expiring for Addison Reed ($7.75M), Fernando Salas ($3M), Curtis Granderson ($15M), Jay Bruce ($13M), Neil Walker ($17.2M), Jose Reyes ($535K), and Rene Rivera ($1.75M), and with the Mets holding team options for Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins for next season, they should have plenty of financial flexibility this winter to retool.
In fact, a rough estimate shows potentially only about $87 million in current commitments for 2018.
Let's take a look …
At catcher, Travis d'Arnaud is making $1.875 million this season. He inevitably will get a raise despite his modest numbers, since that's what happens during arbitration years. And until the Mets do their offseason maneuvering, Kevin Plawecki is the backup at close to the major league minimum of $545,000. So let's estimate $3.5 million allocated to catcher at the moment.
The starting infield should be cheap, with two starters making the MLB minimum: Amed Rosario and Smith. Heck, although it's not beyond the realm that Walker is re-signed, the rest of the 2018 infield for now would be Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera.
David Wright is due to earn $20 million, but insurance may leave the Mets only on the hook for one-quarter ($5 million). It's hard to fathom the Mets would exercise Cabrera's $8.5 million option, so whatever team employs him next week likely will be on the hook for a $2 million buyout for 2018.
Flores is again arbitration eligible, and will get a raise from this year's $2.2 million salary. So, including 25 percent of Wright's contract and two infield backups at the MLB minimum, let's estimate the Mets have roughly $11 million committed to their infield.
In the outfield, Yoenis Cespedes will earn $29 million. And Juan Lagares -- brace yourself -- has his salary rise to $6.5 million. The good news for Mets brass: Michael Conforto will check in at just north of two years of MLB service after this season and won't yet be eligible for arbitration.
If Bruce goes untraded, then receives and accepts a qualifying offer, he would return at about $18 million. But, for now, place Brandon Nimmo and another player not yet eligible for arbitration in the outfield. The Mets' Bruce-less payroll commitment in the outfield is about $37 million.
Despite their widespread under-performances in 2017, the Mets' starting pitchers will continue to get more expensive. Matt Harvey, in his final year before free agency, should check in right about at this year's $5.125 million. Noah Syndergaard will be a Super 2. His salary will be based on his career body of work, not just this injury-interrupted season. Jacob deGrom should get a massive raise from this year's $4.05 million.
Zack Wheeler, eligible for arbitration, will have his salary go up somewhat from this year's $800,000. Steven Matz won't be eligible for arbitration until after 2018, so his salary still will be close to the MLB minimum. Let's take wild stabs and put Syndergaard's salary at $3 million, deGrom's salary at $8 million and Wheeler's salary at $1.5 million. That makes the big-five pitchers' salaries a combined $18 million and change.
As for the bullpen, there's really no money tied up there beyond what's owed to Jeurys Familia -- somewhere near this year's $7.425 million. Hansel Robles looks like a Super 2, but the only significant commitment beyond Familia would be to Blevins, whose 2018 option is for $7 million. Let's keep the numbers round, assume Blevins is back, and put the Mets' bullpen commitment -- with five players at near the MLB minimum -- at $17.5 million.
So with some very rough estimates -- and with Blevins back, Walker and Bruce not included, and the Mets getting insurance money for Wright -- the Mets' 2018 payroll commitment seems to be roughly $87 million for 2018 at the moment. That's a paltry sum that should allow team officials to spend lavishly this offseason if they have the appetite. Even if Bruce and Walker are re-signed, it's still relatively modest, with the bullpen in need of bulking up.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.