ST. LOUIS — The Mets have roughly $150 million in payroll, more than half of which can be shed with expiring contracts this offseason.
Overall, the team’s expiring deals total $76.95 million, factoring in club options, but that hardly guarantees ownership will approve reallocating that sum for a payroll that reaches or approaches the 2017 level. Of the Mets’ nine regular players (which includes four outfielders) it is possible just Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto will return.
With general manager Sandy Alderson in the final year of his contract, there also are questions about who will be entrusted with spending Fred Wilpon’s money this winter.
Alderson turns 70 in November and is completing his seventh season heading the team’s baseball operations. It is conceivable he could retire — perhaps even with a nudge from Wilpon, given the manner in which this season is unfolding — leaving the Mets to rebuild their front office before addressing the roster.
Manager Terry Collins also is in the final year of his contract and has hinted at retirement, potentially leaving the Mets to search for a new manager.
If Alderson returns, the budget he is given for 2018 could be diminished if the Mets don’t rebound in the second half (they entered Saturday 39-45) and keep Citi Field vibrant for the stretch run.
Those factors considered, here is an early look at what the winter of 2017-18 could resemble for the Mets:
Lucas Duda is headed to free agency after this season, and it is unlikely the Mets will bid to retain him — the organization’s No. 2 prospect, Dominic Smith, awaits at Triple-A Las Vegas. Smith represents a clear upgrade defensively over Duda, but there are questions if he can blossom into a power hitter. Wilmer Flores could become be part of a platoon with Smith at the position.
The Mets probably are glad contract negotiations with Neil Walker never accelerated during spring training. The veteran infielder is on the disabled list for a second straight season, and other options have materialized for the Mets at the position. Flores and T.J. Rivera both might figure into the mix, but the Mets could decide to pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option for next season, adding a veteran presence to what likely will be a young, untested infield.
But don’t rule out the possibility of Walker returning on a multi-year deal. The Mets value his presence in the clubhouse and could decide he is a better fit than Cabrera, who created a stir last month by saying he wanted the team to pick up his option as compensation for shifting him to second base.
Top prospect Amed Rosario likely will arrive from Las Vegas before this season concludes, giving the team a defensive upgrade at the position over Jose Reyes and Cabrera. If the Mets don’t retain Cabrera, they could consider Reyes for a utility role, but after a lackluster first half Reyes’ days with the club seem numbered.
If there is a gaping hole, the Mets might consider allocating significant dollars to fill it at this position, with Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier among the free-agent options. But there also is sentiment within the organization to consider Rivera for the full-time job next season.
David Wright? If the Mets captain attempts another comeback, it could be in a utility role, with first base in the equation. But the Mets aren’t counting on him.
Yoenis Cespedes has full no-trade protection and three years remaining on his deal after this season, so he is staying. Maybe the biggest offseason challenge for the Mets will be finding a training routine that keeps Cespedes’ legs healthy and their star player removed from the disabled list.
Curtis Granderson’s four-year contract worth $60 million will expire after the season, leaving the Mets to search for a left-handed option to potentially complement Juan Lagares next season. But Lagares’ injury history is troubling, maybe leaving the Mets open to trading for an everyday center fielder or exploring the free-agent market at the position (Lorenzo Cain is an intriguing option).
Michael Conforto finally should have a position all to himself after Jay Bruce is either dealt before the trade deadline or allowed to leave through free agency. As much as the Mets like the veteran Bruce, re-signing him would mean a long-term commitment to Conforto in center field, an idea that doesn’t excite team brass. Bruce is expected to seek a four-year deal on the free-agent market.
Jonathan Lucroy is the biggest free-agent name at a position the Mets need to upgrade. But Lucroy is 31 years old and having a down year, and as much as Travis d’Arnaud has been a disappointment, both offensively and defensively, he is under team control for next season and could be paired with another veteran backup type if Rene Rivera is not retained.
The Mets have quantity, but the chore will be figuring out who is healthy and on whom they can depend. Matt Harvey will be facing his final season before free agency, but it is anybody’s guess what he will be after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last year and hitting the disabled list last month with a stress injury in his scapula.
Can Steven Matz stay healthy? What is Robert Gsellman’s upside? Where do Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo fit? These will be ongoing questions. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom atop the rotation is a good place to start.
The No. 1 area for allocation of dollars figures to be a bullpen that could lose Addison Reed to free agency, but will return Jeurys Familia and Jerry Blevins (who is unlikely to be traded because of his club option for next year). Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Bryan Shaw are among the big names that figure to be available on the free-agent market.