On Friday, the Mets made the difficult decision to part ways with Wilmer Flores by not tendering him a contract for the 2019 season. After over 11 years as a member of the organization, Flores immediately became a free agent.
The Mets did, however, tender 2019 contracts to the rest of their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players, including Travis d’Arnaud, Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and the remaining 27 members of the 40-man roster who currently have fewer than six years of major league service time. (This includes Gerson Bautista, who is expected to be traded to the Seattle Mariners but was still a member of the organization on Friday.)
Tendering contracts to Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, for example, were simply formalities, but things get interesting when you look at the players at the back end of the roster who survived the Friday deadline.
See, the ability to “non-tender” a player can be a godsend for a front office. Since there is a boatload of restrictions on outrighting players off the 40-man roster in the offseason (we’ll get to that in a moment), simply declining to offer a player a contract for the upcoming season bypasses all of them. Even though non-tendering a player does remove him from the organization as a whole, teams usually have agreements with those they would like to keep on minor league deals in place (as the Indians have already done with James Hoyt, for example).
Of the 30 players on the Mets’ roster without guaranteed contracts for 2019, 13 cannot be outrighted during the offseason under any circumstances, eight can be outrighted but would have the ability to refuse the assignment and become free agents, and the remaining nine can be outrighted at any time. Let’s break those categories down.
Cannot be outrighted during the offseason
Ten of these players cannot be outrighted due to the fact that if they were not on the 40-man roster, they would have been declared minor league free agents on November 2. This is how Jamie Callahan left the organization on that date.
This group of 10 cannot be outrighted until they sign 2019 contracts, which the organization cannot unilaterally make them do until March 1. The only way to remove these players from the 40-man roster is to release or trade them.
The three other players who hold this restriction are Eric Hanhold, Franklyn Kilome, and Daniel Zamora. Hanhold and Zamora because they were Rule 5 Draft eligible players who were selected to the major league roster after August 15, and Kilome because he is injured. He will be placed on the 60-day disabled list, opening up a 40-man roster spot, after spring training opens.
Can be outrighted, with caveats
Eight players hold Article XX-D rights, which means they have accrued over three years of service time (or qualify as a Super Two) or have previously been outrighted in their career. These players, upon being outrighted, can instead choose to become free agents. This is how Rafael Montero (three years of service time) and Phillip Evans (previously outrighted) left the organization on November 2.
While these players can be outrighted (and clearly, almost all of them won’t be), they hold the leverage in that the team risks losing them altogether should they attempt to go that route.
Can be outrighted, with no restrictions
That leaves the nine players who can be removed from the 40-man roster at any time, with the only issue being that they would be subject to waiver claims from the other 29 teams.
Once the trade with Seattle becomes official, Edwin Diaz will replace Bautista in this group.
Obviously, no team wants to lose the players that they currently have on their roster. Had the Mets not wanted the players with outright restrictions on the roster heading into the offseason, they would have made the necessary moves after the conclusion of the regular season. However, the organization is sorely lacking major league-ready depth at all positions which likely heavily influences all decisions.
I’m certainly not suggesting that Brodie Van Wagenen is losing sleep over the fact that the organization might have to cut ties with Gagnon or Sewald at some point, rather I think it’s valuable to know what factors the front office considers when having to make these types of moves.
With what’s sure to be a busy trip to the free agent market on the docket, there will undoubtedly be roster decisions to make.