Barring a surprise, the Mets are done making notable free agent signings and trades this offseason, except perhaps the possibility inking the injured Brandon Woodruff with an eye on 2025..
That means their payroll as it stands right now will likely be the one — give or take a little — they enter the 2024 season with.
And despite a measured offseason that was drastically different than any other of the young Steve Cohen era, the Mets will enter the season with one of the highest payrolls — and perhaps the top one — in baseball.
That is because despite the Mets’ signings and trades this offseason not being splashy or big (in terms of dollars or years), they still have a ton of money on the books this year from deals that were handed out during the last few offseasons.
The only major swing the Mets took this offseason under new president of baseball operations David Stearns was their full-court press of Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, which culminated with a contract offer of $325 million.
Yamamoto spurning the Mets (and Yankees, and a host of others) to join the Los Angeles Dodgers will hurt New York’s ceiling in 2024, but that money not being on the books for the next decade-plus should allow them even more flexibility to spend next offseason and beyond (much more on that below).
Ahead of the 2023 season, New York blew well past the top threshold of what was unofficially dubbed the “Steve Cohen tax.” That spending brought the Mets’ Opening Day payroll to $330.6 million — a record for any team in the four major sports in the United States. Of course, the 2023 season was a disaster, and Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were traded at the deadline.
A significant chunk of Verlander and Scherzer’s deals are still on the books this season, but things will clear up in a big way after the year.
Scherzer, whom the Mets are paying $30.83 million this season, is off the books after 2024.
The Mets are paying Verlander $25 million this season. If his option vests for 2025 (which will happen if he pitches 140 or more innings in 2024), they’ll owe him $17.5 million in 2025. If it doesn’t vest, he’s a free agent and off the books.
Here’s a wide-ranging look at the Mets’ payroll situation this season and beyond…
SALARY COMMITTED FOR 2024
Here are the key players the Mets added this offseason:
– Luis Severino (one year, $13 million)
– Harrison Bader (one year, $10.5 million)
– Sean Manaea (two years, $28 million — second year is a player option)
– Adrian Houser (via trade, one year at $5.05 million)
– Adam Ottavino (one year, $4.5 million)
– Jake Diekman (one year, roughly $4 million with a vesting second-year option for $4 million)
– Shintaro Fujinami (one year, $3.35 million)
– Tyrone Taylor (via trade, one year at $2.025 million)
– Joey Wendle (one year, $2 million)
– Jorge Lopez (one year, $2 million)
When you add what the above players will make, combine it with what the Mets’ arbitration-eligible players (including Pete Alonso) will earn, and add that to the players who were already under contract before this offseason (like Francisco Lindor, Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, and Kodai Senga) you get a CBT payroll of roughly $330 million, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
That figure includes player benefits, the money owed to 40-man players in the minors, and other things that are factored in for luxury tax purposes.
The $330 million also includes the money owed to Verlander and Scherzer.
According to SNY’s Andy Martino. the Mets have earmarked roughly $10 million-to-$15 million to spend during the season if they’re in contention at the trade deadline. And despite this offseason not being eye-popping, the Mets should be able to contend for a playoff spot.
It should also be noted that after they missed on Yamamoto, the Mets were right to take a more muted approach with the remainder of their offseason. There’s a reason players like Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, and Matt Chapman are still free agents with spring training about to start.
WHAT WILL THE PLAN BE NEXT OFFSEASON?
To spend a lot more, and to do so in an aggressive way.
While the 2023-24 free agent class had two huge names (Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani) and a ton of flawed players, the 2024-25 crop of free agents could be loaded.
Here’s a sampling of the players who are set to hit the open market after the 2024 season:
– Juan Soto
– Walker Buehler
– Corbin Burnes
– Zack Wheeler
– Max Fried
– Shane Bieber
– Alex Bregman
– Jose Altuve
When you combine the Mets’ limited spending on the weak 2023-24 free agent class, the huge amount of money that will be coming off their books after this season, and their plan to be bolder ahead of 2025, things really could be lining up for the Mets to pounce on multiple stars next offseason.
They will almost certainly still be in need of an ace to lead the rotation, and barring Soto re-signing with the Yankees during the season, Queens could be one of the most logical landing spots for one of the best hitters in baseball.
That takes us to…
THE PAYROLL SITUATION IN 2025 AND BEYOND
Here are the Mets’ projected payroll obligations from 2025 to 2028, via Cot’s:
2025: $155.1 million
2026: $122.1 million
2027: $110.1 million
2028: $76.9 million
Because New York only has one true megadeal on the books (Lindor) and just four other players under contract beyond 2025 (Diaz, Nimmo, Senga, and McNeil), the money on the books is about to drop precipitously.
This should allow them to sign and/or trade for multiple impact players next offseason, extend Alonso, and still have serious flexibility over the next several offseasons to augment the roster.
In addition to their books being so clean going forward, what will also help the Mets is that a number of their high-impact prospects should be ready for the majors at some point in 2024 or 2025.
That crop of prospects includes Drew Gilbert, Luisangel Acuña, Jett Williams, and Christian Scott.
The low salaries of those players will help offset the money owed to established stars already on the roster and any star players the Mets add next offseason.
Since Cohen took over, the Mets’ goal has been to become a sustainable winner that churns out legitimate talent from the minor league system (now viewed as a top 10 system in the sport) year after year and supplements that talent with a smart approach via free agency and the trade market. They’re not there just yet, but they’re getting close.