PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sandy Alderson said the Mets owners' settlement in the Bernard Madoff case means "the clouds are parting" for the franchise. But the general manager made it clear Tuesday that fans shouldn't expect a spending spree as he is going to stay the course of trying to build from within.
"From an overall organization standpoint, the landscape today is a lot brighter than it was two, three days ago," Alderson said one day after Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz reached a $162-million settlement with Madoff trustee Irving Picard minutes before what could have been the start of a damaging trial.
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"To me there are two significant impacts from this settlement," Alderson said. "One is that obviously from a financial standpoint Fred and Saul and the Mets are in a much better position today than say a year ago when the trustee was looking for far more in damages. The second thing is there is finality now to this."
Alderson also launched into a passionate defense of the Mets' owners, who have been portrayed as more interested in keeping the franchise than spending big money to lure the best players to Citi Field.
"It's totally misguided, this notion that the fans have about the Wilpons and their desire to win," Alderson said. "Until very recently, they were putting out top dollar for players. There's no reason to believe their passion for winning has changed significantly. I don't believe that."
The Mets reduced their payroll from $140 million in 2011 to about $90 million for this season. Alderson said he wouldn't speculate on whether an earlier resolution to the Madoff matter could have led to more spending last offseason, but he is known for an aversion to long-term contracts and spending for the sake of public relations.
"The immediate impact on our payroll is going to be negligible," Alderson said. "I wouldn't say we're out of the business of [big] contracts, but I do think you have to be realistic about the risks associated with those contracts . . . Last time I heard, Albert Pujols had already signed for 2012, so those opportunities are past us . . . This changed landscape may provide some options that may not otherwise have existed.''
One thing the settlement won't change, Alderson said, is his belief that the best way for the Mets to return to respectability is by developing their own players. Before he spoke to reporters at the team's spring training facility, Alderson was on a back field watching top prospect Matt Harvey pitch in a minor-league exhibition game.
"Ultimately the best solution for the Mets is to build a strong core of young players who are coming through the system and can be continuously coming through the system," he said. "I think if you look at what we have now, we've got the potential for that kind of core. But it's the next generation together with some of the players that have been here longer."
One of those players, third baseman David Wright, said he's glad the Madoff situation appears to be behind the franchise.
"I'm happy for the family," he said. "They've obviously been through some ups and downs and it's good to see them happy and it's good to see them come out of this the way that they had hoped they did. I'm happy that we can finally start talking about baseball."