After bringing back Cespedes, Mets GM admits payroll 'an issue'

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — So much for bringing back the big spenders. After the Mets opened the pocketbooks to bring back Yoenis Cespedes last week, they were being heralded as being back among the big boys of MLB’s spending teams after years of financial follies and pinching pennies.

But the reality is the Mets are going to be right back in the middle of the pack in 2017. Sandy Alderson said Wednesday that the Mets’ projected Opening Day payroll, which is now “in excess” of $150 million, will not be that high when the season starts.

“I don’t expect that’s where we will be,” the Mets GM admitted.

So, that means the Mets are obviously not spending any more money this winter until they can free up some payroll space by making a trade.

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So far during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Gaylord National hotel, the Mets have found little market for right fielder Jay Bruce and his $13 million salary for 2017. There has been some interest in Curtis Granderson, who is due $15 million in his final year of a four-year deal with the Mets.

Alderson tried to repeatedly play down the issue of money in motivating the Mets to seek a trade this week.

“Payroll is an issue, but so is playing time,” Alderson said, citing the fact the Mets currently have five outfielders on their roster. “Right now, we’re not configured well to allocate the playing time. We need to smooth that out. I wouldn’t expect we’ll go into the season with what we have, not because the payroll is too high — though that’s definitely a consideration — it’s also because we just don’t have the right mix at the moment, nor the ability to allocate the playing time.”

But all signs are pointing to the fact the Mets are trying to stay in the middle of the MLB pack with their payroll.

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Two Mets sources confirmed Wednesday their payroll needs to be right around $140 million on Opening Day. They said Alderson is trying to get creative when addressing needs on a zero budget.

Three agents who met with the Mets this week described the team as adamant about not adding salary. For example, in looking for a reliever, the Mets are looking to sign players with some limited major-league experience to minor-league contracts. While that has worked in the past for the Mets, this time they are not offering an invite to major-league spring training.

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Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce

(Elsa/Getty Images)

“In other words, they aren’t adding payroll right now,” one agent who met with the Mets said. “Not until one of those outfielders is off their payroll.”

While denying he is under pressure, Alderson admitted it’s not happening.

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“It’s like buying a new house without selling your old one,” he said. “Sometimes you get stuck in the transition, it’s not a good place to be.”

This week, however, the Mets are kind of in that spot.

As soon as the Mets re-signed Cespedes, everyone in baseball was keenly aware that they needed to move an outfielder. With power-hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista still on the free agent market, the Mets’ negotiating position right now is weak.

“It’s not like we’re advertising something that people don’t already perceive. It does put you in a different situation and it affects other clubs’ expectations and affects our expectations,” Alderson admitted. “The other thing is it only takes two or three teams to have an interest in a player to overcome all of that. That’s why we don’t jump at the first opportunity.”

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Still, Alderson seems pretty confident the right deal will be there eventually and the Mets will be on target on Opening Day.

“Could we make something work? Yeah, we could certainly make something work. But do we need to do something tonight? No, we don’t,” Alderson said. “In the meantime the teams that are interested in our players are interested in free agents, are interested in possibilities with other places with other players. As the market gets whittled down it’s possible it could whittle down to no market, but it’s also possible the supply dwindles faster than the demand.”

Now, Alderson just has to wait and see if he can keep the Mets on budget.

Tags:
mlb
new york mets
sandy alderson
yoenis cespedes
mlb transactions

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