Mets' Sandy Alderson has plenty of time to trade extra outfielder

OXON HILL, MD. — The Mets still have an issue. Whether you call it their payroll or playing time, Sandy Alderson left the Winter Meetings Thursday afternoon with too many outfielders who are making too much money. The Mets GM simply sat tight for the week and went back to New York with the exact same payroll and roster he arrived here with Sunday night.

And, for this week, that was the Mets’ right move.

Alderson came to the Gaylord National hotel with a very limited agenda. He needs a bullpen arm, but the Mets’ priority is clearly to trade an outfielder, preferably Jay Bruce and his $13-million salary for 2017, to clear up the logjam in the outfield. And to get the Mets on track financially.

He knows he still has an issue, though Alderson will argue strongly it’s more about playing time than payroll.

Sandy Alderson OK with Mets leaving winter meetings empty-handed

“The issue with the outfield has more to do with playing time than anything else. I know there has been a focus on our payroll and so forth. From my standpoint it’s about playing time,” Alderson said Thursday afternoon as the meetings concluded with the Rule-5 draft. “I said that before. We continue on parallel tracks, not just looking at our outfield situation, but our bullpen situation. I think that the signing of some of the major bullpen options that we’ll start to see some more activity there. Also we need to know what our configuration is….as far as the payroll is concerned there is no need to do things in any particular sequence. But from my standpoint when we have a crowded situation by position, it’s something that we need to address.”

But with where the Mets want to end up financially, at $140 million on Opening Day, and roster-wise, Alderson was smart to sit out the high-paying bazaar that was the 2016 Winter Meetings.

Sandy Alderson showed misdom in not pulling the trigger at this week's Winter Meetings.

Sandy Alderson showed misdom in not pulling the trigger at this week’s Winter Meetings.

(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

It’s probably fun to see your team make a big move during the meetings and watch the networks to see the opinions and analysis. Sure, Yankees fans probably had fun following along as Brian Cashman made two big splashes, spending $86 million on Aroldis Chapman and $13 million slugger Matt Holliday. The Red Sox probably stoked their fans’ hopes for 2017 when they pulled off a blockbuster deal that had White Sox lefty Chris Sale going to Boston for Yoan Moncada, one of the most exciting young prospects in baseball.

Those fan bases were probably as excited as the Flushing faithful when Alderson spent heavily with their prospects in 2015 to get Yoenis Cespedes and make a run to the World Series.

After bringing back Cespedes, Mets GM admits payroll ‘an issue’

But, like it or not, the Mets are simply not the big-spending, big-market team they were in the past, before the financial troubles of ownership. So with the Mets targeting an Opening Day payroll of $140 million, they are already projected about $10 million over.

We just have to wait and see how Alderson works through this. The targeted Opening Day budget of $140 million is still well over the $101 million he started with in 2015 and they did enough to get the Mets to the World Series that year.

So, his track record should buy some patience over the winter.

The Mets have been looking for a trade partner for outfielder Jay Bruce (r.).

The Mets have been looking for a trade partner for outfielder Jay Bruce (r.).

(Elsa/Getty Images)

And he had already delivered a big-ticket player before the Winter Meetings started, spending $110 million on slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Alderson brought back their second baseman, Neil Walker, on a one-year, $17.2 million deal, which gives them a solid bat in their lineup. And by Mets standards, they even splurged a bit and spent $1.7 million to bring back their backup catcher, Rene Rivera.

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So, Alderson and the Mets left the Winter Meetings with the same issues they had before. They have too many outfielders who make too much money. And they do need a middle-tier bullpen arm.

This week, Alderson said he felt he had laid some groundwork for future moves. With the high prices on relievers, and the flooded outfield/slugger market, the Winter Meetings were not the right place to pull the trigger.

“We’ll have conversations continuing when we get back to New York,” Alderson said. “I think what we are pleased with, is the fact we had some dialogue and it continues. We’ll pursue things the next couple of weeks before Christmas and possibly thereafter.”

But, the Mets can wait a little while to deal with those issues.

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