Barring late changes, 19 Mets minor leaguers will be declared free agents at 5:00 PM ET on Friday. Five players (Chris Beck, Bryce Brentz, Scott Copeland, Matt den Dekker, and Ty Kelly) have already hit the open market, a luxury afforded to them because they had been outrighted off the 40-man roster this past season for the second time in their careers.
Here are the 19 who are scheduled to leave the organization on Friday:
LHP Buddy Baumann
RHP Nabil Crismatt
RHP Nicolas Debora
LHP Matt Gage
RHP Jeff Glenn
RHP Zac Grotz
RHP Cody Martin
LHP Matt Purke
RHP Logan Taylor
INF Cody Asche
INF Christian Colon
INF Levi Michael
OF John Mora
OF Kevin Taylor
OF Jhoan Urena
There are two ways to prevent a player from reaching automatic minor league free agency. One is to get him to agree to a successor contract, a one-year extension of the standard minor league pact. The maneuver is seldom used by the Mets (Alberto Baldonado post-2016 is the only one that comes to mind), but a few players around the league have already signed on.
The other way to keep an impending free agent in the organization would be to add him to the 40-man roster, which must be done before 5:00 PM ET on Friday and would subject the player to standard option and service time rules. The last time the Mets selected the contract of a minor leaguer to their 40-man roster in order to prevent him from reaching free agency was in 2015 when they added Josh Smoker.
The Mets are certainly not in a position to add to their 40-man roster at the moment, and in fact, they will have to trim from the roster by Friday as well. Since the organization currently has five open spots on the roster with eight players slated to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, they’ll need to make up the difference by trading, releasing, or outrighting (at minimum) three players.
One interesting roster rule should give an idea of who is most likely to be a victim of the first roster cut of the offseason. MLB rules stipulate that players who would have been “Rule 55” free agents had they been on a minor league roster (i.e., would have been on the list above had they not been on the 40-man roster) cannot be outrighted to the minor leagues after 5:00 PM ET on Friday. After that date, the earliest they could be outrighted to the minor leagues would be March 1 (caveats exist), when their major league contracts would be automatically renewed (as a pre-arbitration player).
Cecchini and Nido are likely safe. For the others, however, there are legitimate cases to be made for their removal from the 40-man roster. I’ll let you devise those arguments for yourself. In short, if any of those six players are in fact outrighted prior to the deadline to do so, they would join the list of the organization’s minor league free agents. If they wanted to keep any of them in the organization, that’s where the successor contract comes in handy.
A hallmark of the Mets’ thought process when it has come to roster management in the recent past has been not making transactions until they are absolutely necessary. Given that sentiment (which is undoubtedly shared by many of the league’s front offices), Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Rafael Montero will not be cut from the roster on or before Friday. The important date regarding those three is November 30, the deadline to tender contracts for 2019 to pre/arbitration-eligible players. Another date to keep in mind is November 20, the same day that rosters must be finalized ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. That date is also the latest that an injured player can be sent outright to the minor leagues. For the Mets, that would pertain to Franklyn Kilome, who will miss the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Got all that? Those certainly aren’t all of the candidates to be cut from the roster this offseason, but it should give an idea of what front offices are considering ahead of upcoming deadlines.