General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during spring training...

General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during spring training at Digital Domain stadium in Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 19, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

CHICAGO -- The human race was spared from Doomsday over the weekend, but with the Mets facing their own private Armageddon, it helps to have a sense of humor when you're Sandy Alderson.

"I was thinking," the general manager said, "if the world had ended on Saturday the way it was supposed to, we wouldn't have to deal with these things."

Instead, Alderson must figure out what to do with his most valuable trade chips during the next two months -- Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez -- before facing the reality of a greatly diminished payroll heading into 2012.

Principal owner Fred Wilpon told Sports Illustrated this week that he expects to lose $70 million this season, and even with $64 million coming off the books, that is not likely to be reinvested in next year's team. Wilpon also suggested the 2012 payroll could be at $100 million or less, but Alderson said he has not been told of those plans.

"That's not a number we discussed and I would expect our payroll to be somewhere above that number and somewhat below where we are now," said Alderson, who has a payroll of roughly $142 million. "I don't want to get into any specifics because . . . I think it's too early to accurately predict exactly what it'll be."

Among the factors to consider are his pending free agents. With Beltran likely a goner, the other big-ticket items are Reyes and K-Rod, who also could be dealt for significant financial relief. Reyes is earning $11 million this season and Rodriguez $11.5 million -- plus a vesting option of $17.5 million for 2012.

Alderson has not begun extension talks with Reyes, who prefers to wait until after the season, but the GM did indicate the sides may have to broach the subject in the next few months if he is not traded in the immediate future.

"At some point we will probably touch base," Alderson said. "But again, we're still in the first third of the season, barely past the quarter mark."

As for Rodriguez, Alderson maintained his usage will not be affected by the sizable option, which vests at 55 games finished. K-Rod is on pace to make it easily. But that $17.5 million seems more palatable when reduced by a $3.5-million buyout that K-Rod gets anyway if the option doesn't kick in.

"Our goal is to win games, and to a large extent the games themselves dictate how he's been used," Alderson said. "There hasn't been any deviation from the normal pattern to this point."

Or K-Rod could be someone else's problem by the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Again, the challenge for Alderson is to balance a return in talent with salary relief. Given the Mets' dire financial straits, money could take precedence, but he believes cash also can be used to strengthen the team.

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months