FRIDAY: There’s “a strong chance” Panik will sign with the Mets when he clears waivers, Martino writes.
THURSDAY: The Mets have interest in Giants second baseman Joe Panik, Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports. Panik was designated for assignment Tuesday and placed on release waivers yesterday, and he’ll officially enter into free agency at noon CT on Friday if he isn’t claimed by another team in the interim.
The Mets’ interest may hinge on whether or not Panik is actually on the open market. If Panik were to sign as a free agent, New York would only be responsible for paying him a prorated MLB minimum salary for the rest of the season (roughly $164K) and the Giants would have to cover the $956K still owed to Panik for the remainder of the one-year, $3.8MM contract he signed last offseason. If the Mets were to just claim Panik off waivers, they’d have to pay him the entire $1.12MM in remaining salary themselves.
As recently noted by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Mets are quite close to the luxury tax threshold of $206MM, as Roster Resource estimates New York’s luxury tax number at just under $203.38MM, counting the newly-signed Brad Brach’s minimum salary. Since the team is loath to make any tax payments and player movement is more difficult now that the trade deadline has passed, the Mets are targeting players like Panik or Brach, who can potentially contribute while their former teams foot the bulk of the bill. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports that at least one other team besides the Mets has interest in Panik, though it isn’t known if this mystery team is willing to make a claim for Panik, or if they are also waiting for Panik to hit free agency.
Panik would provide New York with a short-term replacement for Robinson Cano at second base while Cano is on the injured list, though it’s a fair question to wonder how much Panik can produce in the wake of his recent performance. Aside from an All-Star season in 2015, Panik has been a below-average hitter for the rest of his career, including hitting only .245/.308/.325 over 780 plate appearances since the start of the 2018 campaign. As maligned as Cano’s 2019 season has been, Panik has actually been worse — Cano’s 0.4 fWAR is superior to Panik’s sub-replacement level -0.2 fWAR.
Still, at a minimum price, there’s little harm for the Mets in taking a flier on Panik if nothing else than an extra body in their infield mix. Panik would also add another left-handed bat to a largely right-handed Mets lineup, and his presence at second base would allow Jeff McNeil to remain largely in the outfield.