The Mets announced Tuesday morning that they had trimmed their major league Spring Training roster by making 13 cuts, most notably optioning Chris Flexen, Franklyn Kilome, and Drew Gagnon. While Flexen and Gagnon made three appearances each over the first week of exhibition games, Kilome was notably absent as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
The presence of Kilome, a 23-year-old right-handed starter, as an injured member of the 40-man roster creates an interesting scenario for the Mets to navigate, and it’s possible that Tuesday’s option is the not the last transaction made this month with his name attached. Let’s dissect the situation.
Essentially, the Mets could have taken either one of two routes in order to maintain roster flexibility while still retaining Kilome’s rights. The first route would have been to place him on the 60-day injured list, which would allow him to sit there for the entire season while also not counting against the 40-man roster limit. It seems like a no-brainer option, but it also has to be considered that a player on a major league injured list is treated like any player on the active roster, in that he is awarded a major league salary and service time equal to the number of days spent on the list.
Usually, this isn’t considered an impediment — 15 players are already on the injured list leaguewide — but because Kilome has never appeared in the major leagues before, it isn’t preferable (from the team’s perspective) to start his service time clock before he makes his debut. With a full year of service after 2019, Kilome could potentially become eligible for salary arbitration with less time spent as an active major leaguer than usual.
The other route is to simply option him, which the Mets did well ahead of the March 13 deadline to send injured players to the minor leagues. The issue here is that Kilome is still occupying a 40-man roster spot, and will continue to do so unless he is called back up and placed on the 60-day injured list.
Until that time, the Mets are essentially capping themselves with a 39-man roster. Injured players cannot be outrighted off the 40-man roster, so if that spot is needed — as it was last July when Matt den Dekker had his contract purchased — the only other way to create space would be to release Kilome. Unlike Marcos Molina, who was released to make room for den Dekker, Kilome is still very much a prospect and will not be released.
And the 40-man roster spot will be needed. Presently, the Mets are looking at the likes of Pete Alonso, Luis Avilan, Adeiny Hechavarria, Devin Mesoraco, and, potentially, Rajai Davis and Carlos Gomez to add to the roster either by Opening Day or soon after.
At the risk of reluctantly losing a different player to a waiver claim, it is likely that Kilome gets recalled and placed on the 60-day injured list. However, the only way to complete such a transaction prior to April 7 (the first date optioned players can be recalled) would be to replace another player going on an injured list, such as Yoenis Cespedes.
If, for whatever reason, Kilome remains on optional assignment through at least April 16 (the 20th day of the regular season), his second option year will be officially expended. That would leave him with one option remaining heading into 2020, a year in which it is extremely unlikely that he will spend the entire season in the majors. So by maintaining this route, the Mets are giving Kilome a significantly narrow window to impress them before the decision comes down to being on the major league roster or risk losing him on waivers.
With Kilome’s upside, I’m not sure that’s a risk worth taking, but things can obviously change between now and then.