In his first move in his new job, David Wright … saved the Mets money?
He did. An industry source confirmed (while also amending) information displayed in the popular website Cot’s Baseball Contracts — known more as a database than a reporting outlet — that Wright, whom the Mets formally released on Monday as they named him a special adviser to COO Jeff Wilpon and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, agreed with the Mets to restructure his $15 million salary for 2019.
Wright will receive $9 million this season, with a $4 million lump sum coming on Thursday and the other $5 million given to him through the course of the baseball calendar. The remaining $6 million will be deferred with 2¹/₂ percent interest, compounded monthly, with annual $2 million payments coming each July 1 (better known in the Mets’ world as Bobby Bonilla Day) from 2021 through 2023 and the interest paid out on Dec. 31, 2023.
Combine this news with the Mets’ settlement with their insurers on Wright’s policy, and it’s a whole lot of financial information — some of it clear, much of it cloudy — to digest about the team whose payroll flexibility we routinely and justifiably scrutinize.
In honor of the current, award-winning film “Vice,” which features former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a supporting role, let’s divide the Wright-driven news into Knowns and Unknowns.
1. The Mets’ 2019 savings on Wright.
In a vacuum, the Mets gained $6 million in short-term leeway thanks to their agreement with Wright. They owed him $15 million in 2019, as per the terms of the contract extension they signed with him back in 2012. Now they owe him $9 million in 2019. However, Wright’s up-front payment of $4 million mitigates the savings, since it compels the Mets to cut a sizable check earlier than they would have if they hadn’t cut this deal with Wright.
2. The Wright pay structure that would have been.
Let’s say the Mets (wrongly) decided to keep Wright on their 40-man roster, not make this agreement and let the original insurance policy keep going. Because they activated him at the end of last season, they would have paid Wright in full for the first 60 days of 2019, and then their policy would have covered 75 percent for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020 (when he’ll make $12 million). That would have resulted in the insurance policy accounting for approximately $16.6 million of Wright’s $27 million in earnings and the Mets paying the other $10.4 million. Breaking it down further, the status quo would have compelled the Mets to pay Wright about $7.4 million this year and $3 million next year, with the insurer providing roughly $7.6 million in 2019 and $9 million in 2020.
1. Precisely how much the Mets will receive from their insurance company for Wright.
Settlements such as these usually stay private. Nevertheless, it’s very safe to assume that the Mets will receive less than the $16.6 million they had coming to them with the status quo. A reasonable guesstimate is $12 million.
2. When they get that money.
Often, the insurers will pay the team with an up-front lump sum in return for the savings that the insurers receive on the total expenditure. However, last month, at the Mets’ news conference to introduce Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, Wilpon said of Wright’s insurance, “You don’t get [the money]back all at once, but over time we plan to get that all back and some of that will go back to payroll.”
3. The Yoenis Cespedes insurance.
Sure, let’s throw that in here, too, even though it’s not directly tied into Wright. Wilpon said at the Cano/Diaz news conference it is “a little bit less than David’s percentage, but the fact is there’s money coming back on that, at least for the first half of the season.” Cespedes will make $29 million this season. If the best-case scenario actually occurs and he returns at the All-Star break, the Mets still figure to recoup about $7 million on his salary.
The agreement with Wright obviously gives the Mets — whose current payroll is projected to be about $150 million — additional wiggle room in 2019. Based on the figures discussed above, let’s call it $5 million in salary savings (the $6 million total minus $1 million due to Thursday’s early payment).
With the Wright-related insurance settlement, we must spitball for now (and perhaps forever). Let’s propose, based on Wilpon’s words in conjunction with the precedents set by previous such deals, that they’ll get $9 million this year and $3 million next year. Throw in the Cespedes guesstimate of $7 million.
That all would give the Mets a de facto bump of as much as $21 million for 2019. At the moment, the Mets don’t appear inclined to use those savings in a pricy aisle for, say, A.J. Pollock, let alone Bryce Harper. But could it give them the ability to make a high-impact trade (Madison Bumgarner? Justin Smoak?) during the season? Or could the Mets reproduce their script of past recent offseasons, when they surprised us with significant January and February spending.
All we know for certain is that the Mets have created more short-term fiscal leeway for themselves. And they know that, if they don’t capitalize on that, they’re going to hear about it.