Arbitration Preview

With arbitration decisions upcoming, here is a preview of the arbitration eligible Mets. As a reminder, players are eligible for arbitration if they have more than 3, but less than 6 years of major league service time. Players with more than 2 but less than 3 years of service time are also eligible, provided they are in the top 22% in major league service time for that particular class of players. If a player enters an offseason with more than 6 years of service time and has not already signed a multi-year extension, that payer is eligible to become a free agent (as is the case with Daniel Murphy). If the team and the player cannot agree on a salary, their case is sent to a neutral arbitrator who will decide which of the two cost figures is more reasonable. The team maintains control over all of these players for at least the next full season.

In terms of costs, payers are due raises through arbitration. They cannot be offered less than 80% of their previous season’s salary. Therefore, underperforming and injured players are at significant risk of being non-tendered.

Service time is listed as years.days. Therefore, 3.072 means 3 years, 72 days of service time. 172 days equals a year of service time, despite the fact that a season is usually 182-184 days. Often, teams exploit this to gain an extra year of control over a player (as the Cubs did with Kris Bryant this season, and the Mets did with Ruben Tejada a couple years ago. Notice that Tejada sits at 4.171, or one day short of 5 years). I will also list the projected free agency date (2018 means after the 2018 season), as well as the projected salary, according to MLB Trade Rumors (assuming the player is tendered a contract).

Also of note, Juan Lagares signed a 5 year extension before last season. Therefore, his arbitration years have been bought out and he is not eligible for arbitration.

Here are the Mets’ 8 arbitration eligible players, in order of likelihood they’ll be tendered a contract:

Locks

Matt Harvey (3.072, 2018, $4.7MM)
Lucas Duda (4.137, 2017, $6.8MM)
Jeurys Familia (3.030, 2018, $3.3MM)

The Mets will not let any of these players go, and will probably try to extend at least a couple of them (Duda seems the most likely extension candidate, despite the fact that he rejected a 3/$30MM offer last offseason). Harvey, represented by Scott Boras, seems least likely to sell out his free agency years, but may be open to a 2-3 year extension to buy out multiple arbitration years.

Questionable:

Addison Reed (4.002, 2017, $5.7MM)
Ruben Tejada (4.171, 2017, $2.5MM)
Carlos Torres (3.114, 2018, $800K)
Josh Edgin (3.015, 2018, $600K)

This consists of two categories of players: useful but expensive (Reed, Tejada) and cheap but risky (Torres, Edgin). Reed is the most likely in this group to be tendered a contract after his strong bullpen work after he was acquired from the Diamondbacks. However, he entered his arbitration years as a closer, and therefore is owed considerably more money than relieveres of his type. If the Mets lack the finances to pay him, he will be non-tendered. Tejada is another one that is useful, but it is looking more likely that the Mets will non-tender him and promote Matt Reynolds as the backup middle infielder. $2.5 million is a bit expensive, but options on the free agent market would be similarly priced. It really would be a shame if Tejada’s Mets career ended on a takeout slide by Chase Utley.

Torres struggled last year, but his stamina and versatility could keep him as an attractive bullpen option. If the Mets non-tender him, it will be because they are more comfortable filling the bullpen from within the organization, or from low risk free agents. As was the case with Tejada, $800K seems like market-rate for a player of Torres’s ilk. Josh Edgin, on the other hand, is a lot riskier to keep. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, Edgin would not be ready to return until midseason. That being said, $600K is not a lot to pay for a wild card.

Non-Tender:

Jenrry Mejia (3.085, 2018, $2.6MM)

Though rumors have popped up suggesting the Mets could retain Mejia, I simply can’t see it happening. He would not be eligible to return from his 2nd suspension until late July. If I am correct, I believe that would only put the Mets on the line for $1MM of Mejia’s projected $2.6MM salary. Unfortunately, Mejia has destroyed his reputation and standing in the clubhouse. $1 million for 2 months of Mejia simply may not be worth it, especially when it comes with other baggage. Can you imagine the PR nightmare if Ruben Tejada, postseason rallying cry, is non-tendered for financial reasons but Mejia is retained? Time for the Mets to cut their losses.

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