Mets could sell players…but SD’s long-term contract without answers
There are two teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) that spent big last winter. The New York Mets and the San Diego Padres.
The Mets and Padres spent astronomical amounts of money on star players, and as a result, their payrolls (total player salaries) skyrocketed to first and third in the league: $341.5 million (Mets) and $246.5 million (San Diego).
However, both teams’ records this season are abysmal. The Mets are 37-46 (.446 winning percentage) and San Diego is 38-45 (.458 winning percentage), placing them in fourth place in the National League (NL) East and West divisions, respectively. Winning the division is a long shot, and they’re more than eight games out of the third wild-card spot, which awards a ticket to fall ball, making a postseason berth virtually impossible.
The Mets and Padres, however, are in very different situations, even putting aside their failures this season. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Photo.
Steve Cohen reveals ‘seller’ transformation…Mets have retoolable structure
Mets owner Steve Cohen has hinted at his willingness to become a “seller” just before the trade deadline. In a recent press conference, Cohen said, “If we don’t get better than we are right now, we’ll decide what we need to do at the trade deadline,” leading MLB.com to speculate that “the Mets, who looked like a surefire postseason contender, may now be sellers at the trade deadline.”
In order to win this season, the Mets only signed starting pitcher Justin Verlander (two years, $86 million), outfielder Brandon Nemo (eight years, $162 million), closer Edwin Diaz (five years, $102 million), and starter Senga Kodai (five years, $75 million) last winter, second baseman Jeff McNeil (four years, $50 million), starter Jose Quintana (two years, $26 million), catcher Omar Narvaez (two years, $15 million), reliever Adam Ottavino (two years, $14.5 million), and bullpen David Robertson (one year, $10 million). Even with the re-signings of existing players, it’s clear that the team has invested more than $500 million heading into this season.
But of all the recent signings, Nemo’s eight years is the longest guaranteed. You’ll notice that the rest of the players are all signed for five years or less.
Along with Verlander, the Mets’ other ace, Max Scherzer, signed a three-year, $130 million deal last year, so his contract is up next year. Given that Scherzer and Verlander represent the Mets’ biggest payrolls, if they were to “dump” them, the Mets would have plenty of room for retooling (replacing some of their power while performing above a certain level) in the future.
For example, the Mets could take on some of the massive salaries of Verlander and Scherzer, who were considered two of the best pitchers in the league a year ago, in exchange for prospects who could be ready to play in the MLB soon. While both Verlander and Scherzer have aging curves, they have plenty of fall ball experience and could be attractive to a team looking to make a postseason run.
Especially if the Mets are willing to take on some of their salary, which is out of line with their current performance, the team that takes them on would only have to pay them through next year, not for years, taking some of the pressure off the future.
If the Mets, as a “seller,” can get rid of the high-priced salaries available at the trade deadline, they can come back next year with a fresh slate. That leaves room for a reversal.
Even if you fail to sell and are stuck with your veteran one-two punch, you’ll be able to “rebuild” after next year, when their contracts are up, with a much lighter roster.
Justin Verlander, whose contract is up next year. Photo.
San Diego, a city of 40+ guaranteed contracts…too far to go back
The problem is San Diego. San Diego’s contracts are not only overpriced, but they are also overguaranteed.
The 14-year, $338.25 million contract signed with Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2021 is affordable for the time being because Tatis is now 24 years old, but the rest of the contracts are serious.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ 11-year, $280 million contract, third baseman Manny Machado’s 11-year, $350 million contract, and starter Yu Darvish’s six-year, $108 million contract were controversial from the time they were first signed. Each contract requires San Diego to guarantee the salaries of Bogaerts and Machado through age 40 and Darvish through age 41.
Infielder Jake Cronenworth also signed a seven-year, $80 million deal that guarantees him through age 36, but the truth is, Cronenworth has declined every year since his rookie year. This year, at age 29, he’s headed for career lows. There’s no shortage of analysts who say the aging curve has already begun.
Starting pitcher Joe Musgrave’s five-year, $100 million contract and bullpen Robert Suarez’s five-year, $46 million contract, guaranteed through age 34 and 36, respectively, seem reasonable.
It’s nearly impossible to trade these super long-term contracts, not only because of their salaries, but because having a roster spot occupied by a veteran past his prime is so disruptive to a team’s strategy that few teams want to take it.
In other words, “unloading” Bogut, Machado, Darvish, and Cronenwirth is a pretty tall order.
So as long as they’re on the roster, San Diego has to run. On top of that, outfielder Juan Soto, who was acquired in a trade that gave up a number of the team’s key prospects, is a free agent after next season. With a huge payroll right now, locking up Soto to a super long-term deal seems like a no-brainer for San Diego.
That said, the scenario of trading Soto this year is also murky. With Bogaerts and Machado already in their 30s, the Padres need to see what they can do with Soto next year before his skills decline further.
In the end, San Diego is stuck with the core of the team even though the postseason is effectively out of reach.
Juan Soto (right) and Manny Machado.토토사이트
At this point, it seems like the only thing San Diego can do for now is trade starter Blake Snell and closer Josh Hader, who are both free agents after this season, for decent prospects. Keeping them around would require another astronomical amount of money after this season, and it’s doubtful San Diego will make that investment again. If they’re going to let them go after the season anyway, they might as well get something in return and do it half a year early.
■ Highly tradable Ha-Sung Kim could be a ‘grenade’.
With the Padres having come too far to turn back, it will be interesting to see what “crazy strategy” San Diego general manager A.J. Preller, who has been nicknamed the “Madman” for buying and selling players beyond common sense in these situations, will come up with before the trade deadline.
That strategy might include Ha-Sung Kim, who has been performing well at a relatively low salary, and whose service time, which is controlled through next year, could bring in a decent counteroffer.
You might ask if it makes sense to sell Kim when the only player in San Diego who is worth more than 100% of his salary is Ha-Sung Kim. But it’s a possible scenario. As mentioned above, San Diego’s general manager is a “Madman” who makes unpredictable deals.