The Mets have remained in contact with agent Scott Boras regarding center fielder Brandon Nimmo throughout his free agency, but MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports that there’s a “general pessimism” among many in the organization about the team’s chances of re-signing him. As DiComo points out, manager Buck Showalter was effectively referring to Nimmo in the past-tense last night. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote last night that GM Billy Eppler was using terms like “get creative” and “opportunistic” earlier in the week when discussing further transactions.
Of course, since that time, the Mets agreed to a two-year, $26MM deal with Jose Quintana and acquired lefty reliever Brooks Raley from the Rays, both of which represented rather straightforward augmentation of the team’s pitching staff. And even amid reports of pessimism and a shift toward more measured spending, SNY’s Andy Martino tweets that the Mets are at least remaining open-minded about the possibility of an all-in push for both Nimmo and righty Kodai Senga.
The Mets found themselves with a substantial array of needs to address heading into the offseason, with Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, Edwin Diaz, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino all reaching the open market. They’ve patched up the rotation by adding Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana to join Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco, and the Mets’ first strike was to bring Diaz back on a record-setting five-year, $102MM contract. The recent acquisition of Raley added some needed support in the bullpen.
Those moves, however, have left the Mets with a projected $306MM in terms of luxury-tax obligations. As a second-time offender, they’ll pay a 90% tax on on any expenditures north of $293MM. In other words, one or both of Nimmo and Senga would cost the Mets nearly double whatever annual salary is applied to their contracts — at least this season.
The Mets can certainly explore avenues to lower their luxury number, perhaps shopping for a taker on the remainder of James McCann’s contract or (less problematically) by gauging interest in veterans like Mark Canha or Eduardo Escobar, each of whom represents a relatively significant luxury expenditure ($13.25MM for Canha; $10MM for Escobar). To that end, Mike Puma of the New York Post suggests the Mets are shopping Darin Ruf in hopes of getting a team to absorb some or all of his $3.25MM he’s still owed, though that would amount to little more than a drop in the bucket for their enormous luxury obligations.
Nimmo is widely expected to command a nine-figure deal of at least five, if not six years in length. Senga’s price tag is a bit tougher to gauge, as while agent Joel Wolfe revealed this week that he’s received offers of five and six years in length for his client, the annual value being discussed on such deals is not publicly known. Speculatively speaking, it’s not all that difficult to imagine the pair combining for something in the $40MM range, AAV-wise, which would mean at least an additional $36MM in taxes on top of their actual contracts. At present, the Mets are tentatively looking at roughly $41MM in luxury penalties, and by being more than $40MM over the luxury line, they’re also slated to have their top pick dropped by 10 places in next year’s draft order.
Further complicating matters is that the Mets are already projected for approximately $201MM of luxury obligations as far out as the 2024 season. Scherzer has an opt-out in his contract that could greatly reduce that number, but that’s hardly a guarantee to be exercised at this time. That $201MM figure also doesn’t include arbitration raises for Pete Alonso (projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $15.9MM in 2023) or Jeff McNeil (projected for $6.2MM); that pair could combine for more than $30MM in 2024. Again using that speculative $40MM combination of AAVs for Nimmo and Senga, the Mets would be barreling toward the fourth tier of luxury penalization again in ’24, which would then come with a mammoth 110% tax rate in their third consecutive year of exceeding the tax threshold.
The ultimate decision rests in the hands of owner Steve Cohen. It bears mentioning that this type of lavish payroll bonanza is among the reasons that the league’s other owners sought to implement a fourth tier of luxury penalization — colloquially dubbed the “Cohen Tax” — in its recent wave of collective bargaining with the MLB Players Association. It doesn’t appear to be stopping the Mets from taking on upwards of $40MM in luxury penalties, but adding Nimmo and/or Senga to that pile would teeter on unprecedented with regard to the scope of the luxury penalties incurred.