Mets’ budget restrictions may impact free-agent options

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson introduces Mickey Callaway as the club's manager during a press conference on Oct. 23, 2017 at Citi Field. / Joseph D. Sullivan

The Mets pushed payroll up to $155 million at the start of last season, which ended in disappointment despite lofty expectations. This year, general manager Sandy Alderson has already indicated that payroll will come down, with the Mets insisting that a minor reboot will be enough for them to build a contender.

But with payroll once more an issue — a constant source of fan frustration during the era of Wilpon ownership — will the numbers add up?

With free agency beginning on Monday, the Mets figure to have approximately $30 million to spend on plugging holes in the lineup, the bullpen and possibly the starting rotation. It’s not a sizable war chest given the team’s multiple needs. But once again, it will be Alderson’s job to stretch a dollar, and solutions will almost certainly have to come from a combination of free-agent signings and trades.

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The Mets could use a major bat for both the infield and outfield, in addition to an established reliever in the bullpen and perhaps a veteran innings-eater for the starting rotation. But given the budget, the Mets likely won’t be in play for top-tier free agents, whose price tags could run upward of $25 million per season.

For instance, former Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas will almost certainly fall out of the Mets’ price range, though other options such as Eduardo Nuñez may fit. The same goes for outfielder J.D. Martinez, who would fit for the Mets, though Jay Bruce’s price tag may prove more realistic.

When the Mets last week picked up the options of lefty specialist Jerry Blevins and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, their guaranteed contract commitments jumped to $71 million with another $43 million estimated to retain arbitration-eligible players such as Jacob deGrom, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.

The Mets could be on the hook for another $6 million in pre-arbitration contacts, bringing their total commitments to about $120 million before they’ve even signed a free agent.

Warthen joins Rangers

Former Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was hired on Monday as assistant pitching coach of the Rangers. After he was relieved of his duties, the longtime Mets pitching coach had been offered a position within the organization but declined.