LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Losing out on Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee was no big disappointment for the Mets, who never planned to bid on those free agents anyway.
But as general manager Sandy Alderson departed the winter meetings Thursday, he did so with the uneasy feeling of where the market is headed next year and beyond, when the Mets presumably will have money to spend.
Alderson opened the week by ripping Werth's seven-year, $126-million deal with the Nationals, but he bit his tongue the morning after Crawford's seven-year, $142-million pact with the Red Sox surfaced.
"Certainly I think everybody's going to have to step back and figure out what this means for the overall marketplace going forward," Alderson said. "You'd like to think, gee, these are somewhat out of the ordinary. But it's easy for some things to suddenly become ordinary, and it looks like it's heading in that direction."
Alderson wasn't even talking about Lee, who is mulling a seven-year offer likely in the $160-million range from the Yankees. As a self-described "interested onlooker" at these meetings, Alderson avoided the bidding wars this time around, but the Crawford contract surely made Jose Reyes a very happy man Thursday morning.
The Mets exercised their $11-million option on Reyes for 2011, and neither side has expressed much interest in talking about an extension before the start of the season. Alderson wants to see the oft-injured Reyes on the field; Reyes, like every player in his walk year, is interested in what kind of dollars he can attract as a free agent - especially now, after the Crawford deal.
The two are similar offensive players, but Reyes, 27, has the added benefit of being two years younger than Crawford and a shortstop, a higher-value position than a corner outfielder. Crawford has a .781 OPS over nine seasons, compared with Reyes' .769 over eight, and his career .296 batting average is 10 points higher. But they are even more comparable (on average) when it comes to doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases.
The major caveat with Reyes is his health. A series of leg issues early in his career was a factor in the four-year, $23.25-million contract that many believed was a bargain for the Mets at the time it was signed during the 2006 season. Reyes has been limited by injuries the past two seasons - he played only 36 games in 2009 - and that makes this year critical for him from a financial standpoint.
The Mets are expected to have roughly $60 million coming off the payroll after this season, but Alderson already has said he does not plan on reinvesting that entire amount in more long-term deals again. Instead, he wants to spend while maintaining roster flexibility, which is something that could be difficult when the Yankees or Angels are trying to sign your All-Star shortstop. But after a quiet stay this week at the Dolphin Resort, Alderson realizes that it will be important to get in the game in subsequent Decembers.
"I want the Mets to make headlines," Alderson said. "And I'm a realist about certain things, so believe me, flying under the radar is not something that I expect the Mets to do on a long-term basis."