As the Mets prepare for baseball's winter meetings, which begin Monday in Orlando, a clearer picture is starting to emerge about their blueprint heading into the 2011 season. General manager Sandy Alderson provided some insight Friday on a number of topics, from the tentative plans for the team's younger players to the limited amount of money at his disposal.
When asked if the 2011 season will be a "bridge year" that allows the Mets to move from the mistakes of the past into the new regime's reshaping of the franchise, Alderson refused to describe his efforts as part of a rebuilding process. But he suggested he does not want to make any financial promises now that could damage his flexibility for 2012, when roughly $60 million comes off the payroll.
"I think we're starting with a core of players, 15 or so, who are pretty darn good," Alderson said. "We don't have a lot of money to fill out the last five or six spots on our 25-man roster, I would say. There's not a lot of flexibility there this year, but that doesn't mean we can't be optimistic or competitive about next season.
"I do think next year will be a different - present a different set of opportunities. I don't really want to commit [multiple] years given what I think our opportunities will be because that will diminish those future opportunities - unless we're really sure. I think we are going to be cautious about multiyear deals."
That explained why Alderson parted ways with Hisanori Takahashi, who signed a two-year, $8-million contract with the Angels on Thursday, and is "not likely" to pursue Pedro Feliciano. It's also why he said he is very interested in Chris Young and Jeff Francis, two free-agent pitchers who could be locked up with incentive-laden one-year deals. Alderson said he has yet to make an offer to either pitcher, but he does not plan on returning from the winter meetings empty-handed.
"I can guarantee you we'll come back with some new players," Alderson said. "I can't guarantee how high-profile or how many. But if nothing else, we'll pick in the Rule 5 draft just to say we brought a player back."
As for the current Mets, Alderson said he expects Oliver Perez - now pitching in Mexico - to be with the team for spring training. He also is reluctant to push younger players such as Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia on to the major-league roster in 2011 if he can help it. Mejia, who bounced back and forth as a reliever in 2010, is viewed as a starter - most likely in the minors.
"We don't want him in our bullpen this year," Alderson said. "It's possible he will be, but I think our goal is not to use some of the good arms that we think are maybe a year away and rush them into a situation where they're used as a stopgap basis in the bullpen. We don't want to sacrifice the long term for an immediate need in a role that maybe we don't project this guy in the future."