While the New York payroll limit isn’t known publicly, the front office seemingly feels it may be best served moving money off of the books. The contracts of veterans Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie are each under water after brutal 2019 seasons, so that seems to be the place the club is targeting.
Of course, no other club is going to have interest in paying Familia ($22MM through 2021) and Lowrie ($13MM through 2020) what they’re still owed. But the Mets are floating a “concept,” per Rosenthal, by which they’d attach some of those unwanted payroll obligations to an otherwise positive-value player-asset. Say, Dominic Smith and his five remaining seasons of team control.
Just how likely this is to come to fruition isn’t clear. But it’s conceptually possible. The Mets picked up Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano last winter on this essential model (though that only makes it all the more frustrating to be pursuing this sort of pact in the opposite direction, involving other recently acquired players). And Andy Martino of SNY.tv tweets that the team actually had a chance to pull off such a scenario at the trade deadline involving Familia and Zack Wheeler.
It’s hard to conceive just what a Familia-Wheeler swap might have looked like — it’s tough to imagine any team would have taken on a big piece of that salary to rent Wheeler for a few months — but it seems the pursuit gained some traction. Then again, Martino also asserts in another tweet that the Mets nearly pulled off a Wheeler-Noah Syndergaard blockbuster before backing out of talks with the Astros. It appears the Brodie Van Wagenen-led front office has explored a wide array of possibilities in recent months.
It will be interesting to see if the Mets can find a salary swapping partner that makes sense. While parting with talent to dump payroll isn’t always advisable, the New York club may be particularly well-situated to do it. Smith is a unique asset: young and affordable, with a solid recent track record and a prospect background, but also largely superfluous to the Mets. Perhaps J.D. Davis could be another candidate to function in a trade of this kind, though he could also still have a functional role on the roster. If there’s an opportunity to free capital to improve the roster in other ways, it makes sense to pursue. But it’s also possible to imagine Smith and/or Davis being cashed in for prospects instead, so it’s important to consider that opportunity cost in assessing the possibilities.