The Mets’ rotation and Scott Kazmir


The Mets’ Four Aces were down to one ace, one Noah Syndergaard, for most of 2016, with flashes of deGrom and Matz, a bad and then injured Matt Harvey, plus Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Gabriel Ynoa, Rafael Montero, and others, yes, others; Jon Niese who is still wearing a Pirates cap on his Baseball Reference page even started twice for the Mets last year. As a reward for his All-Star, top 10 Cy Young, top 20 MVP season during which he also led the league in both FIP (2.29, lower than his 2.60 ERA) and fewest HR/9 (0.5), which parenthetically suggests the Mets’ defense is terrible, Noah Syndergaard will be receiving a raise from $535,375 to $605,500, which is both more money than I will ever see in my lifetime and an amazing bargain for a team whose owner has his own New York Times search page with the phrase “Madoff suit” in parentheses. According to Spotrac, Syndergaard is the 117th highest paid starting pitcher in the majors and the 498th highest paid overall player in the majors, and his career earnings as a pitcher are comparable to those of Brewers Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson, who do not have World Series appearances, top 10 Cy Young finishes, or scary Norse nicknames.

Of course, this is a result of the current CBA structure, in which teams can keep player salaries low based on service time, and service time is valued over performance, if not inversely to performance since veterans who eventually decline and lose value tend to be paid more than the value they generate for teams just as young players who have no bargaining power tend to generate more value for teams than their salaries.  Cynically, it means that awesome young players need to receive well below market value for years until finally they reach the decline stage of their careers and can sign ridiculous free agent contracts that teams will regret and owners will wish they had amnesty clauses to try to remove (or maybe not; front offices aren’t as bad with terrible contracts these days because front offices aren’t as bad, period–there are only four teams to have lost 90 games or more in each of the past two years, and one of those teams is the Oakland A’s, who are still to some extent THOSE Oakland A’s).  So other than flags flying forever and Mets fans becoming even more like whom you think of when you think of Mets fans, what would have happened if, sometime during the course of last season, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz had all suffered career-ending thoracic outlet/rotator cuff/Steve Blass Disease-type injuries and simultaneously decided to retire at the end of 2016? How would the Four Aces be remembered and, more cynically and more relevant here, how would that memory translate into financial terms?

By the numbers:

Total career earnings of the Four Aces, from Matt Harvey’s major league debut in 2012 through the end of 2016, excluding signing bonuses: $9,801,535
Total Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference): 34.0
$/WAR: $288,280.44

Or if you prefer:
With signing bonuses included: $13,316,535
$/WAR: $391,662.79

A win by most estimates is worth around $8 million on the open market, so the Four Aces collectively generated approximately 20 times as much value as they were actually paid.

To torment Mets fans more–or wait, this will actually torment Mets fans LESS (other than that the premise of this hypothetical is that the Four Aces are now Zero Aces, so hypothetical Mets fans are now Aceless)–how much value did the Dodgers receive just in 2016 from a dollar amount almost equal to the Mets’ 2012-2016 total investment in Harvey-Syndergaard-deGrom-Matz–namely, Old Friend Scott Kazmir, whom Mets, Dodgers, and Tampa Bay Rays fans (and maybe Angels fans, and A’s fans, and Indians fans, and Astros fans) recall well?

Scott Kazmir 2016 salary: $12,666,667
Scott Kazmir 2016 WAR: 0.2
Scott Kazmir 2016 $/WAR: $63,333,335

Yes, the Dodgers paid $63 million per the-win-he-didn’t-deliver for Scott Kazmir in 2016, meaning that they paid 8 times more per win than they should have on the open market for the benefits of Scott Kazmir, but which also means that Scott Kazmir was worth approximately as much in salary to the Dodgers for his 136 1/3 innings over 26 starts last year as the Four Aces collectively have been to the Mets through 2016 while providing less than 6 percent of the total value. Maybe it’s not so bad to be a Mets fan these days, but it sucks to be young and a Met.

Mets’ salary numbers courtesy of Spotrac.


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