Money For Nothing

Two weeks ago, during the “It Was All Luis Alicea’s Fault” Media Tour, Jeff Wilpon committed to a 2010 payroll in line with the $147M the team spent this season. To that, the average baseball fan says, “Mets fans are lucky! Their owners are willing to spend top dollar on talent.”  At the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that statement. Mets fans are lucky — and if given the choice between a high payroll and a low payroll, I’m taking the high one. In this case, unfortunately, $147M doesn’t buy what it used to (supposed to) and therein rests the primary failing of the Mets in 2009.

 The table below represents Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (WAR) calculations for each Mets player.  To the right of the overall WAR column is the value of each player’s contributions on the open market (Fangraphs determined that a win is worth ~$4.5), their total salary according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts and the ‘Net’ value of that player’s contract to the team in 2009 (derived simply by subtracting the player salary from their value).

Player

Bat

UZR

Rep.

Pos.

WAR

Value

Salary

Net

Wright

21.4

-10.9

20.6

2.2

3.3

$15.00

$7.500

$7.50

Beltran

21.3

-4.7

11.9

0.9

2.9

$13.20

$18.500

($5.30)

Pagan

9.8

5.5

12.5

-0.3

2.8

$12.40

$0.575

$11.83

Tatis

3.5

3.6

12.6

-4.6

1.5

$6.80

$1.700

$5.10

Castillo

5

-11.3

19.3

2.2

1.5

$6.80

$6.000

$0.80

Santos 

-7.3

 

10.2

7.4

1

$4.60

$0.400

$4.20

Delgado

6.3

-0.2

3.7

-2

0.8

$3.50

$12.000

($8.50)

J. Reyes

2.1

-1.9

5.5

1.7

0.7

$3.40

$5.750

($2.35)

Murphy

-3.7

2.2

18.5

-11

0.6

$2.80

$0.400

$2.40

Castro

-0.1

 

2.9

2

0.5

$2.20

$2.500

($0.30)

Church

-3.5

2.2

8.5

-2.7

0.5

$2.00

$1.400

$0.60

Francoeur

6.1

-8.6

10.3

-3.5

0.4

$1.90

$1.700

$0.20

Valdez 

-2.5

1.8

3.2

1.6

0.4

$1.80

$0.400

$1.40

Thole

0.3

 

2

1.3

0.4

$1.60

$0.400

$1.20

Schneider

-7.8

 

6.5

4.6

0.3

$1.50

$4.900

($3.40)

Sheffield 

8.5

-12.2

10.4

-5.2

0.2

$0.70

$0.400

$0.30

Sullivan

-0.2

-1.7

5.2

-2.4

0.1

$0.40

$0.600

($0.20)

Cora

-9.8

-3.7

10.3

3

0

($0.10)

$2.000

($2.10)

Brown

-0.3

-0.2

0.2

-0.1

0

($0.20)

$0.400

($0.60)

A. Reyes

-2.6

-0.2

0.6

0.2

-0.2

($0.90)

$0.400

($1.30)

Berroa

-3.7

-0.4

1

0.6

-0.2

($1.10)

$0.800

($1.90)

Evans

-2.2

-3.1

2.3

-1.7

-0.5

($2.10)

$0.400

($2.50)

F. Martinez

-7.1

-0.5

3.3

-0.8

-0.5

($2.30)

$0.400

($2.70)

R. Martinez

-5.3

-2.1

1.5

0.5

-0.5

($2.50)

$0.750

($3.25)

J. Reed

-9.4

1.7

5.9

-4.8

-0.7

($2.90)

$0.925

($3.83)

Totals

 

15.3

$68.50

$71.200

($2.70)

The Injuries

Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado missed a combined 343 games, costing the team $16.15M in contract value and about $35M in expected production, projecting Beltran and Reyes at +5 wins and Delgado at +2.  This is obviously the largest reason why the Mets were not competitive this season. When you lose two superstars for most of the year, you’re mostly screwed.  With Delgado, however, the team knew about his hip condition and expected him to miss time. The worst case scenario played out and the Mets have no one to blame but themselves.

The Positives

Despite slugging only ten home runs and playing abysmally in the field (his defense cost the team over one full win according to UZR), David Wright’s 3.3 WAR led the team and yielded the second highest value.  Wright’s contract is an outstanding example of a pre-arbitration contract extension working out for both the player and the team. Imagine the kind of salary David would’ve commanded in his penultimate year of arbitration following two straight seasons of 30+ home runs. A fair guess would lead you in the vicinity of Ryan Howard.  As for Wright, he has the security of a $10M salary for 2010 after a 2009 season that left many perplexed about his precipitous drop in  power and high strikeout rate.

Angel Pagan was the champion of the 2009 season, rewarding the Mets for renewing his contract at the bargain price of $575K with 2.8 WAR — a $12.4M performance.  It’s doubtful Angel plays this well going forward (age 28 season, injury-prone, spotty minor league track record) but he’ll be an asset on the Mets’ bench next season. 

Fernando Tatis, despite his maddening presence in Jerry Manuel’s lineup throughout September, was third in net value and showed that he’s still a viable reserve player. 

Meh

Luis Castillo was worth his salary this season — and I’m sure the team’s brass is happy about that — but his .342 BABIP despite diminished speed and rancid defense discourages me from thinking he’ll earn his salary in 2010-11. 

Omir Santos is fourth in net value, but Fangraphs doesn’t measure catcher defense and the cachet he gained with the organization means he’ll be around for future seasons. He is, after all, a player with a .653 minor league OPS and a poor defensive reputation.

Gary Sheffield was so injured and amputee-like in the outfield, he couldn’t outperform his $400K salary by a significant amount.

Daniel Murphy was a slightly below average hitter at first base, and thus, nothing special. This you can live with from a player making the league minimum (though I just wish they allowed him an opportunity to play other positions).

The Ugly

Jeremy Reed flat-out stunk this season, posting a mere eight extra base-hits, a .297 OBP and a negligible +1.7 UZR on defense. For this, he made nearly $1M – his presence ‘costing’ the team nearly $4M, the most of any player not beset by injury. “The new Endy” he’s not.

Brian Schneider was the opening day catcher; by season’s end, he was third on the depth chart and mentor to Josh Thole. He cost the team $3.4M, though that’s mostly to blame on Jerry Manuel’s irrational love affair with Omir Santos.

Alex Cora and his fire gave the team $2M worth of replacement-level performance. By contrast, the very fungible Wilson Valdez was worth +0.4 WAR for the minimum salary. This is why you don’t give multi-million dollar contracts to marginal bench players.  Also proving this point was Marlon Anderson, who in the second year of a $2M contract, was released after four lousy plate appearances.

Cory Sullivan was so lousy he couldn’t earn the measly $600K extra Omar Minaya paid him this season.  Ramon Martinez was awful in his short stint with the team and made a cool $750K for his struggles. Angel Berroa made a prorated $800K for his stint on the roster.

The larger point is that the Mets paid somewhere between $6M-$8M (not sure about obligations owed to players optioned/DFA’d) to players who’s contributions could’ve been matched, or bettered, by freely available talent for the league minimum salary. I realize that these aren’t serious financial obligations, but when you consider that useful reserves like Juan Uribe, Eric Hinske and Adam Everett each signed for less than $2M a piece; the depths of the Mets failures in 2009 become painfully evident.

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