The economy sucks, and I fear that the Mets will use it as an excuse for not spending this offseason. This excuse would be unacceptable, as the Mets were 2nd in baseball in attendance and 3rd in average ticket price in 2008. They have a TV network and a brand new stadium, featuring higher ticket prices but with about 10,000 fewer seats.
The Mets 2008 payroll was about $138-140 million. By my calculation, the projected 2009 payroll based only on players currently under contract is about $100-$102 million. This includes predictions about future raises to guys like Ryan Church and Aaron Heilman, as well as money still owed Billy Wagner. This leaves, conservatively, $36 million available for spending if they wanted to simply meet 2008's payroll. The luxury tax level is $162 million for 2009.
$36 million is no small chunk of change to work with, and I think they should be able to spend maybe $45 million without significantly hurting their financial statements. (Note: I have not inspected the Mets' books, so my $45 million figure is pretty arbitrary. I do think a $148 million 2009 payroll is reasonable though.) With this assumption, I see no reason why the Mets shouldn't be able to offer the following:
- 4 years, $60 million to Derek Lowe
- 2 years, $20 million to Brian Fuentes
- 2 years, $24 million to Adam Dunn
This comes to roughly $37 million, leaving a few million for scrap heap bullpen signings as well. Lowe and Fuentes were offered arbitration so the Mets would lose 2 draft picks if both signed. However, when another team unwisely signs Oliver Perez for like 4 years and $50 million, the Mets would get 2 picks in return. Some might balk at paying Lowe $15 million a season, but even this amount might be lower than what he's actually worth. I'm all for trading for Huston Street, if possible.
The crappy economy is indeed crappy. I have witnessed it's wrath firsthand in the form of layoffs of friends and 401(k) value decreases. However, if the Mets use it as a crutch for not spending this offseason, I'm going to call B.S. To paraphrase Dennis Nedry (as played by Wayne Knight) in Jurassic Park, "Don't get cheap on me Wilpon."