The Yankees made a clever deal with DJ LeMahieu on Friday, stretching $90 million over six years. That was a longer term than nearly anyone expected, but it allowed the Yanks to keep an elite player at an average annual value of $15 million.
Among its many other implications, the agreement opened up a new possibility for the Mets and free agent center fielder George Springer.
Seven years, $130 million anyone?
As reported here many times and recently confirmed by others, the Mets -- like the Yankees - want to remain under the $210 million luxury tax threshold this year. Despite the best efforts at self-delusion of the luxury tax deniers on social media, this is a fact.
Once the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco last week, their pursuit of Springer downshifted significantly, according to people involved in the talks. Springer was asking for approximately $25 million per year, which no longer worked financially for the Mets. A player’s luxury tax number is calculated based on the average annual value of his contract, meaning that a longer deal is less of a tax hit.
(Author’s note: This article is not an endorsement of any billionaire owner treating the luxury tax as a salary cap. We are merely reporting the Mets and Yanks’ intentions).
As previously reported, the Toronto Blue Jays have offered Springer a five-year deal in the $115-125 million range.
If Springer, a Connecticut native, prefers the Mets, the team could extend the aforementioned seven-year, $130 million offer, for an average annual value of $18.6 million.
Springer, 31, is a year younger than LeMahieu. A seven-year deal would end with him at the same age, 38, as LeMahieu’s six-year contract.
According to Cots Contracts, the Mets currently have $30 million of luxury tax space for 2021. Mets sources peg the number at closer to $20-$25 million, possibly because teams like to begin the season with $5-10 million free for additional moves.
The Mets are also in serious talks with reliever Brad Hand, sources maintained late Friday. Springer at $18.5 million and Hand at an AAV of, say, $7 million could actually come in under the luxury tax line.
Signing Springer would still raise uncomfortable questions for the Mets. It would make it harder to offer contract extensions to Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto. Ultimately, the Mets might have to choose between Springer and Conforto.
It’s a lot for Sandy Alderson and Jared Porter to consider. But they pay attention to the rest of the league, and are well aware that a new path to signing Springer just revealed itself.