By Rich Coutinho
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Where will Jose Reyes be playing in 2012?

That’s been openly discussed all season long. The speculation will only intensify during the final few weeks, so I decided to take a look at the numbers to see what could happen — and Mets fans might like the results.

The Mets’ payroll at the start of 2011 was around $142 million, with many high ticket items coming off the 2012 payroll, including:

  • Luis Castillo, $6.25 million
  • Ollie Perez, $12 million
  • Carlos Beltran,  $20.7 million
  • Jose Reyes, $11 million (we will add his new numbers in later)
  • Gary Matthews Jr., $1 million (yes, that Gary Matthews — maybe his dad should pipe down)

To date, New York has $66 million committed to contracts in 2012.  They include:

  • Johan Santana, $21 million
  • Jason Bay, $18.1 million
  • David Wright, $15.2 million
  • R.A. Dickey, $4.75 million
  • D.J. Carrasco, $1.2 million

There are also a number of players, likely to be with the Mets, that are under their control. They include:

  • Ike Davis
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Josh Thole
  • Pedro Beato
  • Lucas Duda
  • Ruben Tejada
  • Jonathan Niese
  • Dillon Gee
  • Justin Turner

These players will comprise about $9 million, since most will make the league minimum ($414,000 in 2011).

How about arbitration eligible players? Their contracts include:

  • Mike Pelfrey, $3.9 million in 2011
  • Angel Pagan, $3.5 million in 2011
  • Bobby Parnell, $434,000 in 2011

I would think Mets would budget about $10 million for these three players if they plan on retaining them.

Aside From Reyes, the Mets’ soon-to-be free agents are Capuano, Hairston, Brydak, Young and Harris. I would think most won’t be back with Brydak and Capuano being the most likely candidates to stay.

So to summarize:

  • $10 million for retaining arbitration eligible players
  • $66 million for committed contracts
  • $9  million For players under Mets’ control
  • $7  million for incumbent free agents aside from Reyes

That totals $92 million in estimated cost.

I think that’s high because it is assuming the Mets will keep all three arbitration-eligible players. Now, their payroll is likely to sit at $125-130 million, which would be $10-15 million less than last year. That means they would have anywhere from $33-38 million left to sign Reyes and spend on other players.

Now, even if Reyes gets $20 million per year, that still leaves $13-18 million to address the bullpen and perhaps an additional starting pitcher. I think the Reyes contract will be closer to $17 million, but you get the point here.

The numbers indicate the Mets can keep Reyes and Wright, revamp the bullpen, and with a healthy Santana — they can compete. How is that possible, you ask? The catcher, first base, second base and right field positions are manned by Ike, Tejada, Duda and Thole. All of those players are budgeted at close to the league minimum. Furthermore, bench players like Murphy and Turner, even pitchers like Gee, Niese and Beato sit there as well.

And here’s the kicker: more pitching help is on the way with the likes of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and others heading toward a 2013 debut. And those players will be under the team’s control at friendly prices for years to come.

And by that time, more money can be devoted to other areas.

But the bottom line here is Reyes is destined to stay in Flushing and the money is here to rope him in. That is the top priority for this organization as they head into the 2011-2012 offseason.

Do you agree with Coutinho’s logic? Let him know in the comments below…

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