Money to Dictate Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler Mets Debuts

Was anyone else surprised when Sandy Alderson said that newly acquired Travis d’Arnaud may start the 2013 season in Triple-A and not the big league club? First I was, and then I wasn’t. Because like all decisions the Mets make, this is about money. So expect to see d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler in Flushing at around mid-season.

metsYou see, if d’Arnaud and Wheeler start the season on the Mets roster, their clock towards arbitration and free agency begins. The sooner they reach those, the more money the Mets will have to pay them. And we know the Mets are not fans of spending money.

The rules say players can go to arbitration after playing three seasons, unless they are a “Super Two,” which allows some players with more than two years but less than three years to go to arbitration. Players have to be in the league for six full seasons to be free agents.

Let’s look at Jason Heyward, Ike DavisĀ and Giancarlo Stanton, who all made their debuts in 2010, and see how the rules and roster manipulation effected them:

— Heyward started the season with the Braves, which means he can go to arbitration now and can be a free agent after the 2015 season.
— Davis came up in late April. He accrued enough time to be a Super Two, so he can go to arbitration this year, but he won’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season — a year later than if he had started the season with the Mets.
— Stanton made his debut with the Marlins in June. He did not accrue enough time to be a Super Two, so he can’t go to arbitration until after next season. He can escape Miami after 2016.

Heyward and Davis will likely be paid in the millions of dollars this season because of the threat of arbitration, while Stanton, who would have received more than both of them, will be renewed at whatever salary the Marlins choose. You can rest assure it will not be overly generous. Both Davis and Stanton will have to wait an extra year to reap the benefits of free agency because of the way their teams handled their promotions.

If recent history is a guide, expect to see d’Arnaud and Wheeler in July. That’s when Matt Harvey was finally called up in 2012. The timing virtually ensured that he will not be a Super Two.

Sandy Alderson already laid the ground work for this by saying d’Arnaud might need extra time in Triple-A because he missed half of 2012 with a knee injury. He also said he would acquire a fifth starter and guarantee him a spot in the rotation, meaning there is not room for Wheeler to even compete for a spot.

Of course, this goes against Alderson’s statements that he needed a “difference maker” in order to tradeR.A. Dickey, that “If we do something, we want whatever comes back to us to have an impact on us as soon as possible.” As soon as possible would be at the beginning of the season, not midway through. But should we really be surprised by Alderson’s lies anymore?

Alderson will surely be asked about this as the season drags on and d’Arnaud and Wheeler languish in Las Vegas. He will say it has nothing to do with money. Of course, when someone says it has nothing to do with money, it has everything to do with money.