The Mets death star is now fully operational after swooping in to sign Carlos Correa to a reported 12-year, $315 million deal late Tuesday night after his deal fell through with the Giants. That puts their projected 2023 payroll at $384 million (not including luxury tax which pushes it to nearly a half billion), the largest payroll in MLB history and nearly $100 million more than the next-closest team (this year’s Yankees projection).The statement “highest in history” gets thrown around a lot when talking about sports deals, as they are constantly resetting the market. While we have seen payrolls tower over the competition before, the Mets are starting to approach George Steinbrenner-Yankees territory.As it stands today, including the reported Correa deal, the 2023 Mets payroll is projected to be 32 percent higher than the next-closest team in baseball (Yankees). That’s the largest difference between the two highest payrolls in baseball since the 2009 World Series champion Yankees (+35%). It’s also identical to the Yankees gap in an 11-year stretch from 2003-13 (payroll data from The Baseball Cube).
What the 2023 Mets are doing, the Yankees did for over a decade.The Yankees are responsible for nine of the top 10 gaps in payroll between the top two teams since 1988, when this info was first available. Only once, in 2009, did they win the World Series.Highest percent difference in payroll between top two teams since 19882005 Yankees (+69%)2006 Yankees (+62%)2008 Yankees (+52%)2004 Yankees (+45%)2009 Yankees (+35%)2007 Yankees (+32%)2023 Mets (+32%)2003 Yankees (+30%)2010 Yankees (+27%)1988 Yankees (+21%)The 2023 Mets projected payroll ($384M) also doubles the league average ($172M), albeit with several months left of the offseason to spend. Of the previous 14 teams to do that, only the 2009 Yankees won it all. Double MLB average payroll since 1988Yankees (11 times from 2003-13)Dodgers (three times, 2013-14 and 2022)Mets (2023)Yes, Steve Cohen’s Mets are starting to spend like George Steinbrenner’s Yankees, but they’ve yet to reach their peak levels. The Yankees set the standard here. Their payroll doubled the league average in 11 straight seasons (2003-13). Their peak payroll was 2005, when they spent 69 percent higher than the next-closest team and 185 percent higher than the league average, still significantly higher than this year’s Mets projections (69% and 124%, respectively).
The Yankees had the highest payroll in baseball for 15 straight seasons (1999-2013). The Mets have a long way to go. But they are squarely are in the 2000s Yankees neighborhood thanks to more $800 million spent on free agents this offseason, easily the most in the league, with the crosstown rivals coming in second at $573 million.The Mets payroll is powered at the top by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, who are each making $43.3M per year, the highest average annual salaries in MLB history. Factoring in Kodai Senga, Carlos Carrasco and Jose Quintana, the rotation is making $129 million per year, which will undoubtedly make them the highest paid starting five ever. Then throw in Edwin Diaz, the highest paid reliever of all time ($20.4M per year). The left side of the Mets infield is really where the Yankees comparisons pick up. Correa is the 12th player in MLB history with a deal worth at least $300 million, along with fellow teammate Francisco Lindor. They are one of four current pairs of teammates to hit that number.
Teammates on $300M contractsAaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole (Yankees)Bryce Harper and Trea Turner (Phillies)Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado (Padres)Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa (Mets)Correa is expected to move to third base, similar to what Alex Rodriguez did when he was paired with Derek Jeter. Jeter (10 years, $189 million) and Rodriguez (10 years, $252 million) were playing on the two largest contracts in baseball and sharing the same side of the infield for several years on the Yankees. Correa and Lindor aren’t quite in the same air there, even from a financial standpoint, relative to the league.Still, the Mets spending is quite remarkable, even how it resembles the mid 2000s Yankees team building philosophy. Of the 11 highest paid Mets’ players, only Brandon Nimmo was drafted by the team. Mets’ highest paid players (average annual salary)SalaryAcquiredSP Max Scherzer$43MFree agentSP Justin Verlander$43MFree agentSS Francisco Lindor$34MTrade3B Carlos Correa$26MFree agentCL Edwin Diaz$20MTradeOF Brandon Nimmo$20MDraftOF Starling Marte$20MFree agentSP Kodai Senga$15MFree agentSP Carlos Carrasco$14MTradeOF Mark Canha$13MFree agentSP Jose Quintana$13MFree agentSo what does it all mean? It all but guarantees the Mets will be very relevant under Steve Cohen, and perhaps public enemy No. 1 similar to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees. But it does not guarantee a championship. We’ll have to wait until November for that one.