Someday the Mets will need a bit of goodwill if they intend to sign bright young starters such as Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to contract extensions before they can test the lucrative waters of free agency.
But for now, olive branches aren’t foremost on the mind of general manager Sandy Alderson, who announced Thursday that the Mets will take a hard-line stance with players eligible for salary arbitration.
Breaking with recent precedent, the Mets have become the latest team to adopt a tactic known as “file and go” or “file and trial,” meaning the club will cut off negotiations with arbitration-eligible players if they can’t settle on contracts before Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline to exchange salary figures.
That means the Mets are prepared to take players to hearings, notoriously contentious affairs in which an arbitration panel chooses a salary figure submitted by the player or the team. Both sides generally hope to sidestep the trial-like proceedings, which can cause hard feelings that poison future negotiations, such as multiyear extensions.
“I’m not sure that there’s that sort of negativity that surrounds arbitration today that surrounded it 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago,” said Alderson, who got his start in baseball working on arbitration cases. “I think it’s gotten less personal. Everybody sort of recognizes that it’s part of the process.”
Until now, it has been common practice for the Mets and many other teams to keep talking with arbitration-eligible players past the deadline to exchange salary figures. Like many teams, it has been unusual for the Mets to take a player to a hearing. The last was Oliver Perez in 2008.
“The key thing is eliminating a lot of unnecessary conversation back and forth between the time that the numbers are filed and the arbitration is set,” Alderson said. “There’s no reason why we can’t get this done by the deadline tomorrow. It gives us some certainty about what preparations we have to make and which we don’t. It gives us a lot more clarity about where we’re headed. And it pushed the decision-making up to the point where if we get behind, we can go on to other things.”
Lucas Duda settled for $7.25 million Thursday night. Harvey, deGrom, Josh Edgin, Travis d’Arnaud, Addison Reed, Wilmer Flores and Jeurys Familia remain arbitration-eligible.
Of course, the Mets have a financial incentive to adopt a hard-line stance. According to projections from MLBTR.com, those seven could account for $34 million in payroll commitments. By cutting off negotiations after Friday, the Mets hope to shave from that amount to help in the short term.
That’s clearly the focus for Alderson, who acknowledged that he doesn’t consider long-term extensions a front-burner issue.
“It’s not something we actively have to prepare for, at least not this soon,” he said. “As time goes on and we get closer to that possibility, it gets higher on our priority list.”
Notes & quotes: Alderson denied Wally Backman’s assertion that the GM blackballed him after his dismissal as manager at Triple-A Las Vegas. “All I’ll say is what we decided is that it was in our best interest as an organization to make a change there,” said Alderson, who noted he hasn’t discussed Backman with another team since he left the Mets’ organization. “Wally did a good job for us, he’s a good manager. Players like to play for him, so from that standpoint, anybody who called me about that, about him and his performance, would get a positive review. So the fact that Wally or anybody else is not working for the New York Mets any longer is no reason to prevent Wally or anyone else from being gainfully employed elsewhere.” . . . Jay Bruce remains on the roster, but Alderson is leaving open the possibility that the Mets will not make a trade by camp. The market for corner outfielders has been slow-moving, contributing to the logjam.