Sandy: "Mets not yet in a position to spend at will"

Mets GM Sandy Alderson talked to Buffalo media yesterday and said the Mets are not yet in a position to ‘spend at will,’ like the Yankees do in the free agent market.

“Basically we’ve got to get people back in the ballpark to generate the kind of revenues that would be needed to have an even larger payroll,” he explained, according to ESPN New York. “The fact is, even at $100 million or $110 million, we’re still in the upper echelon of payrolls. That ought to allow us plenty of latitude.”

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Good lord, I do not look forward to another winter of the Great Payroll Debates. But, I know it will happen. It’s inevitable. To me, the whole thing is a myth anyway. It’s idealistic. Seriously, have you looked at the list of likely free agents this winter? If I gave someone $160 million to spend on a new team, I’m not sure it would end up an impressive roster. Supply is weak, which is why a select group of players get SO much money every winter and then after that it’s slim pickings.

In talking to people around the game, it seems to me there are two schools of thought (for a team in a situation like the Mets): 1) Spend up front, dig yourself in a financial hole, hope you win, sell tickets and keep it going until it topples over, which is what Omar Minaya did, or 2) Cut the budget, bleed a bit, build up from the farm, start winning, sell tickets and then (when the money starts coming in again) increase spending, which is what the Phillies did. It’s clear Alderson is doing the latter option, which, from the fan point of view, requires more patience, understanding and trust than the instant and exciting (but possibly fleeting) gratification that comes with the first.

At any rate, I still keep hearing next year’s payroll could be around $120 million, which is what I kept writing last Spring. Sandy mentions $100 million or $110 million. I don’t know, maybe the number is shrinking, or maybe he’s just lowering expectations. In either case, this winter, I hear the team will make a strong push for Jose Reyes, look to acquire a big bat, and totally rebuild the bullpen, while continuing to stock-pile prospects and set up payroll to be more flexible beyond next season. How he does all of that (with roughly $30 million to spend) will be an interesting trick, but I look forward to seeing how he does it.

To hear more from Alderson regarding payroll, and ‘making a run at a Jose Reyes,’ check out Adam Rubin’s blog for ESPN New York.