Analyzing Mets' payroll situation for 2022 and beyond following big offseason spending

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Francisco Lindor Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Steve Cohen treated art 2021
Francisco Lindor Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Steve Cohen treated art 2021

I wrote on Oct. 25 that the Mets, no matter who was hired to run baseball operations -- and regardless of whether that person came from within or was an external hire -- were entering an offseason that would very likely include lots of spending.

Before Steve Cohen's first season as owner, he set the expectation that the Mets would not spend like drunken sailors in Year 1, with New York instead pouncing on certain situations that were deemed appropriate -- such as the massive extension handed out to Francisco Lindor after he was acquired via trade.

The Mets were more cautious overall, though, refusing to outbid the Toronto Blue Jays for George Springer or splurge for other big-ticket free agents.

But the expectation entering Year 2 of the Cohen regime was that the Mets would spend big as they reshaped the roster with an eye on contending right away.

And that's exactly what happened soon after Billy Eppler was named GM, with New York signing -- in order -- Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer.

Now, with an enormous amount of money already committed to the payroll for 2022, the Mets will almost certainly be well above the luxury tax this coming season (no matter what the threshold is after the new CBA is agreed upon and the lockout ends).

Let's break down the payroll situation for 2022 and beyond...

SALARY ALREADY COMMITTED FOR 2022

As things currently stand, the Mets have over $200 million committed to the payroll for the 2022 season that will count toward the luxury tax, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

That includes players under contract such as Scherzer ($43.3 million), Lindor ($34.1 million), Robinson Cano ($24 million), Jacob deGrom ($21.78 million), and Marte ($19.5 million).

Sep 16, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Starling Marte (2) bats against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Sep 16, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Starling Marte (2) bats against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.

That figure does not include projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players, many of whom are in line for large raises.

It also doesn't take into account the estimated $16 million in player benefits and $2.25 million that will be owed to 40-man roster players in the minors that Cot's figures in.

WHAT ARE THE ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS PROJECTED TO MAKE?

After non-tendering Robert Gsellman and moving on from Jose Peraza and Jose Martinez, the Mets have 13 players eligible for salary arbitration, including some of their most important core pieces.

The 13 players are Pete Alonso, Miguel Castro, J.D. Davis, Edwin Diaz, Luis Guillorme, Joey Lucchesi, Seth Lugo, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Tomas Nido, Dominic Smith, Drew Smith, and Trevor Williams.

Apr 5, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo (9) reacts after hitting a single in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Apr 5, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo (9) reacts after hitting a single in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

With the Mets having tendered contracts to all of the above players, they will account for roughly $47.4 million, bringing the Mets' payroll to a bit over $265 million.

Granted, the Mets could and likely will trade some of the players who were offered arbitration -- with Davis and Dominic Smith among the trade candidates -- but that won't move the needle much when it comes to payroll relief.

HOW MUCH ROOM IS THERE TO ADD MORE PLAYERS THIS OFFSEASON?

That depends on how far past the luxury tax threshold the Mets are willing to go.

Fans don't (and shouldn't) care about this, but all owners do. It's why teams (including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees) don't exceed the tax forever.

But the Mets are in strong position to exceed the tax by a lot in 2022 before slowly starting to get back under by 2024 or 2025.

That means New York can continue to build the team the right way for 2022 while looking for more starting pitching help, bolstering the bullpen, and maybe adding one more big bat.

San Francisco Giants third baseman Kris Bryant (23) reacts after scoring against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field.
San Francisco Giants third baseman Kris Bryant (23) reacts after scoring against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field.

Additionally, while the Mets have spent a lot this offseason on external free agents, many of their own free agents -- including Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Javier Baez, and Aaron Loup -- are gone.

And barring something strange happening, Michael Conforto will be moving on as well.

Does losing many of their own free agents make it more likely the Mets splurge on more external free agents and/or swing a trade for a relatively expensive player? Probably.

Does it make it likely they'll sign another big bat like Kris Bryant? Perhaps not, but they can certainly do it if they want to.

WHAT ABOUT EXTENSIONS FOR UNDER-CONTROL PLAYERS?

In addition to their free agent frenzy and retaining lots of their arbitration-eligible players, the Mets should also be exploring potential extensions for some of their core pieces.

That should include Alonso (who has three more seasons of arbitration), Diaz (who is set for free agency after 2022), and Nimmo (who is also set for free agency after 2022).

And per SNY's Andy Martino, the Mets are interested in exploring an extension with Nimmo.

It should be noted that if the Mets extend any of their own players, they can't lessen the impact on the luxury tax by backloading deals since the tax is calculated using the average annual value of a contract.

THE PAYROLL SITUATION IN 2023 AND BEYOND

While the Mets already have a substantial amount committed to the payroll for 2022 and will likely exceed the luxury tax by a lot, the payroll situation gets much better in 2023 and beyond -- for a few reasons.

Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Brett Baty, Mark Vientos
Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Brett Baty, Mark Vientos

The first reason is that their salary commitments are about to drop -- and that drop will be substantial by 2024, due in part to the expiration of Cano's contract.

At the moment, the Mets have about $183 million committed to the payroll for 2023. That will go up with arbitration raises and when factoring in any more players they sign/trade for/extend. That figure could also change if deGrom (whose salary is figured in above) opts out of his contract after the 2022 season.

For 2024, the Mets have only $107 million committed to the payroll before arbitration raises. That does not include deGrom, though the Mets currently hold a $32.5 million club option on him for the 2024 season. That option will of course be dependent on whether deGrom opts out after 2022.

What will also help the Mets get back under the luxury tax sooner rather than later is the expected influx of top prospects, whose salaries will be relatively inexpensive during the early part of their big league careers.

Those prospects include Brett Baty and Mark Vientos (who could debut in 2022), Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, and J.T. Ginn (who could all debut in 2023), and Matt Allan (who could debut in 2024).