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Coleman: The Mets Are Set

By Ed Coleman
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For the most part, what you see is what you get. The Mets' payroll for the 2012 season will decline some 37% - from about $143 million in 2011 to around $90-91 million for this year. There might be some fine tuning still to be done, and some salaries might increase slightly from what's expected, but basically - after settling four arbitration deals, and with 10 players on guaranteed major league contracts and 11 others who are close to the league minimum - the Mets are done.

General manager Sandy Alderson has stressed and desired financial flexibility since his arrival in New York. And one thing that is striking - and alarming - for the Mets' budget in 2012 is the following: Three players - Johan Santana ($24 million), Jason Bay ($16 million), and David Wright ($15 million) - will account for over 60% of the team's payroll this upcoming season. There's not a lot of flex in flexible with that number. If you add the salaries of four pitchers - starters R.A. Dickey ($4.25 million) and Mike Pelfrey ($5.7 million), along with setup men/closers Frank Francisco ($5.5 million) and Jon Rauch ($3.5 million) - it brings the total to almost $74 million for 7 players. Leaving about $16 million for the remaining 18 roster spots.

The Mets have 10 players who will earn about half a million dollars ($500,000) apiece. They are starting pitchers Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee, infielders Daniel Murphy. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner, catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. outfielder Lucas Duda and reliever Bobby Parnell. Throw in another half-million for a 5th outfielder, be it Mike Baxter or Adam Loewen or someone else (it won't be Cody Ross) and probably somewhere between a half and a million for a second lefty or long man for the bullpen.

Veteran southpaw reliever Tim Byrdak is set at $1 million for 2012. Veteran righty D.J. Carrasco could be the long man or could be the odd man out - either way the Mets owe him $1.2 million for this season. The others are centerfielder Andres Torres ($2.7 million), utility outfielder Scott Hairston ($1.1 million), utility infielder Ronny Cedeno ($1.2 million), and relievers Ramon Ramirez ($2.65 million) and Manny Acosta ($875,000). Voila - there you have it.

The current payroll should put the Mets somewhere in the middle of baseball budgets for the upcoming season. Going on last year's figures, it would have ranked them 13th overall out of 30 clubs. When you look at baseball's 8 playoff teams from 2011, five of the eight had Opening Day payrolls under $100 million. The average payroll of the 8 teams was somewhere around $118 million, but that was inflated by the hefty numbers of the Phillies and Yankees. With roster moves and additions during the course of the season, the Mets' payroll could well be close to or at $100 million before all is said and done. But Met fans - in the same town alongside the free-wheeling Yankees - do not care to hear about average payrolls and middle-of-the-pack budgets. Alderson has stated and is hoping that the Mets can outperform their payroll and thus generate new revenue that can be used to fortify and improve the existing roster. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not exactly, especially in a very difficult and costly N.L. East.

There's been an awful lot of David Wright trade talk floating around, so one thing to keep in mind about sending the face of the franchise elsewhere. If Wright is traded during this season, he can make null and void a $16 million club option for 2013, so a team that acquires him would not get a draft pick if he opts out after the season and leaves as a free agent. Wright's trade value may be at its highest next off-season if he puts together a solid 2012.

Highly touted pitcher Matt Harvey has been invited to big-league camp at spring training. The 23-year-old righty pitched at both Single A and Double AA last year, and despite a rather high ERA at Binghamton, he pitched well and had an almost 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Harvey will be joined by speedy outfielder Matt den Dekker, an excellent defender who hit 17 HR combined at two levels last season. Pitcher Zack Wheeler, acquired from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade, did not receive an invite to camp.

Finally, the quandary continues. After watching two great football games on Sunday, the scene is now set. Again. The team I locally root for versus my hometown Patriots. Again. I first met Tom Coughlin back in the early 80's when I was working in Boston and he was the QB coach under Jack Bicknell at Boston College. He was also a star player at Syracuse when I arrived there as a freshman. I've always liked him, and have had great admiration for him over the years as a person and a coach, in that order. He's easy to pull for - except when he's facing the Pats. And Lord knows he's made their life miserable since at least 2007. Both teams were a little fortunate to survive on Sunday, but the Giants were the best overall team amongst the four, and they're still the best overall team, the other Tom (Brady) notwithstanding. May the best Tom win.

C U soon
Eddie C.

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