The Mets, coming off a disappointing 2020 season and with Steve Cohen taking over as owner, will be one of the most interesting teams to watch during the offseason.
With the arrival of Cohen comes the return of Sandy Alderson, who takes over as team president under the Cohen ownership.
The Mets will be looking to build the team up this offseason as they seek to rebound in what should be a strong NL East next season. And unlike last offseason, the Mets -- whose payroll situation is now quite good -- should be in position to make a serious splash or two.
Let's break down the Mets' payroll situation for 2021 and beyond...
SALARY ALREADY COMMITTED FOR 2021
With Yoenis Cespedes, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos all coming off the books, the Mets are in a pretty advantageous spot, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.
The suspension of Robinson Cano and removal of his $24 million salary from the books in 2021 will also have a big impact on how the Mets operate this offseason.
Jacob deGrom (earning $36 million in 2021) will take up a significant portion of the payroll. But beyond deGrom and without Cano, the largest contract the Mets are currently on the hook for in 2021 is the $18.9 million due to Marcus Stroman, who accepted the Mets' qualifying offer.
Of course, the above will almost certainly change when the Mets start the process of locking in many of their arbitration-eligible players.
EXPECTED ARBITRATION RAISES FOR 2021
The Mets have 13 players eligible for salary arbitration this offseason.
Those players are Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Edwin Diaz, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Miguel Castro, Guillermo Heredia, Robert Gsellman, and Chasen Shreve.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, using their formula that determines value by extrapolating the 60-game season over 162 games, the Mets' arbitration-eligible players are projected to make roughly $58 million in 2021.
If you add that $58 million to the roughly $71 million the Mets have committed to the payroll before arbitration raises, you get roughly $129 million. If you subtract that $129 million from the expected luxury tax threshold of $210 million for the 2021 season, you get $81 million, which is a solid chunk of money to play with.
POTENTIAL EXTENSIONS TO 0-TO-3 PLAYERS AND/OR ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
Looking at the Mets players who haven't yet hit arbitration, Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso arguably make the most sense as candidates for extensions. The idea would be to buy out their arbitration years while tacking on some additional years of team control.
We've seen deals like the above all across baseball recently with young stars (Ronald Acuna Jr. and Eloy Jimenez among them) that give the player a huge financial windfall and security years early and the team a below-market deal.
Switching gears to the Mets' 13 arbitration-eligible players, Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are the two players the team should be eager to sign to extensions.
For Conforto, it's logical to think that if the Mets don't lock him up before spring training that he'll test free agency after the season. New York should not let it get to that point.
When it comes to Syndergaard, the circumstances are more cloudy.
Also set to become a free agent after the 2021 season, Syndergaard is in the middle of rehab from Tommy John surgery. If the Mets are confident Syndergaard will be healthy and elite soon after his return, it would behoove them to lock him in now -- getting themselves a below market deal and giving Syndergaard some financial security.
If the Mets wait to see how Syndergaard performs before trying to extend him, it's fair to think Syndergaard would simply bet on himself and hit free agency.
Either way, with their payroll situation in strong shape for the future (as we'll detail below), the Mets should be strongly considering locking in some of their key players.
PAYROLL SITUATION IN 2022 AND BEYOND
In 2022 and 2023, the Mets have a shade over $60 million committed to the payroll each season, including the $24 million owed to Cano each of those seasons.
In 2024, the Mets have only $19.2 million committed to the payroll, though New York holds a $32.5 million option on Jacob deGrom for the 2024 season that would bring the total amount committed to payroll for that season to roughly $52 million.
DeGrom also has an opt-out after the 2022 season, which he could easily exercise if he's still pitching at an elite level by then -- and there's no reason to think he won't be.
But no matter what happens, the Mets are in terrific shape when it comes to their payroll situation in 2021 and beyond.
Under Cohen and Alderson, the Mets should have plenty of flexibility to not only go after huge free agents such as Trevor Bauer and George Springer and potential trade targets such as Francisco Lindor, but extend many of their own core pieces along the way.