The largest one-year payroll slashing in Major League Baseball history might not belong to the then-Florida Marlins, whose offseason fire sale six years ago landed Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca with the New York Mets and gutted the team's payroll from $60 million to $15 million.
The distinction, it turns out, soon may belong to the 2012 Mets.
After general manager Sandy Alderson revealed the organization lost $70 million last year, the Mets appear poised to have the biggest one-year payroll drop in MLB history -- roughly $52 million. That would surpass the former record: $48.4 million by the Texas Rangers from 2003 to 2004, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Marlins from 2005 to 2006 had the biggest reduction by percentage, trimming nearly 75 percent of their payroll, but the total was $45.4 million.
The Mets' payroll, which stood at roughly $143 million last season, is expected to swoon to less than $91 million this Opening Day.
Reigning National League batting champion Jose Reyes signed a six-year, $106 million contract with the Marlins -- without the Mets mustering a bid. In fact, the biggest-ticket acquisition the Mets made this offseason was signing free-agent closer Frank Francisco to a two-year, $12 million deal. He will earn $5.5 million in 2012.
As a result of the departures of Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and Reyes from last year's Opening Day roster, as well as upgrades by other National League East clubs, the Mets are widely projected to have their fourth straight losing season and finish in last place in the division.
And if Fred Wilpon and family are to survive as Mets owners -- which is their intent -- the austerity likely will continue into future offseasons, meaning fans bear the brunt of the payroll constraints with a less-than-optimal product.
"I think we have to get the fans back at the stadium. That's a necessity. That's the lifeblood,"
Wilpon told reporters at this month's quarterly owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. "And to do that, we have to have a good team. ... I think we're going to be better than you think. We would hope that Mets fans enjoy going to the ballpark and give this team a try."
The Mets cut ticket prices for the third consecutive season, this time between 5 and 30 percent depending on the location. The paradox the Wilpons are facing is that they need the revenue generated by fans in order to continue meeting their debt payments. Yet the lack of big-ticket signings and excitement about what's forecast to be a last-place team likely will keep fans away.
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.