The short answer is sure, why not? But the long answer is much more complicated.
Let’s deal with the short answer first. The Mets have $60.050 million committed for 2016. Jonathon Niese and his $9.050 million will surely be dealt (thus getting rid of that pesky $50,000). If the Mets sign Yoenis Cespedes, they will trade Juan Lagares (if his elbow allows), getting rid of another $2.5 million. That leave the Mets with $48.5 million to three players — David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer. Sandy Alderson likely is not comfortable spending nearly half his payroll on just three players, but that is the situation he created.
Let’s say Cespedes signs for $25 million per year. That would up the Mets commitment to $73.5 million. Matt Harvey, Lucas Duda and Jeurys Familia are the only arbitration-eligible Mets due for major salary increases. Let’s say $7 million each for Harvey and Duda, and $4 million for Familia. That brings the total to $91.5 million.
The rest of the team will be built around near minimum players. So 18 players at around $550,000 each comes to almost $10 million. So now we are at about $101 million, which equals this year’s payroll.
But even that number is low. Hopefully Sandy Alderson learned his lesson and will not complete with his bench with Quadruple-A players, seeing what professional hitters such as Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson have brought. So maybe he signs a couple of veterans (or even those guys!), so let’s up the tally by $8 million. Now we are close to $110 million.
With the Mets playoff bound (this can’t come back to bite me in the ass, right?), the Wilpons coffers will be much fuller than they have been in recent years. Would they approve a payroll increase to, say, $120 million? If so, the Mets can easily afford Yoenis Cespedes.
But the Mets have to consider their future payrolls. Let’s say Cespedes agrees to a six-year, $150 million contract (and that is conservative). That is a good chunk of change to tie up. The Mets young starters are still near the minimum, but in a couple of years, they will all be at various stages of arbitration. That rotation can easily cost the Mets upwards of $50 million or more per year very soon. Without that pitching, the Mets would not be in first place, and Alderson would not have gone out and gotten Cespedes in the first place. So it is imperative to hold onto those starters for as long as possible.
The Mets might need to save that money in order to sign the starters long-term (or even short-term). Of course, you don’t win without hitting. But maybe Alderson has seen what a gun-for-hire can do. Maybe he keeps his pitching and goes out and trades for a different Yoenis Cespedes every year. Of course, the odds that anyone can duplicate his torrid streak are extremely low. But if he can keep the pitching, the Mets will almost always be in contention. ready for that big bat to put them over the top.
This means the Mets will always be “one bat away.” It is a dangerous way to run a ballclub. It would just be easier to give Cespedes his mega-deal. But it just might not be the best thing to do.