PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Sandy Alderson deviated from recent history. He swerved around making any declarations about the Mets’ win total this season, and he did not make any pronouncements about how many games David Wright will play.
But the general manager nevertheless expressed his excitement about a team that is mostly unchanged from last October. He insisted that he’ll be free to make a move to bolster a contending team at the trade deadline, if needed.
“We’re all in here,” Alderson said Sunday, shortly after the Mets wrapped up their first full-squad workout of spring training.
At the winter meetings, with Jay Bruce and his $13-million salary on the trading block, Alderson expressed hesitance about adding to the payroll without first dealing away the outfielder. At the time, the Mets had yet to fortify their bullpen, a clear need.
Bruce’s market never developed and he remains with the Mets, with Alderson saying he’s not engaged in any trade talks on outfielders. But with Bruce’s salary still on the books, the Mets re-signed lefty Jerry Blevins and righty Fernando Salas, adding about $9.5 million in salary.
The Mets’ payroll to start the season is projected in the neighborhood of $150 million, still not in the same class as some of the game’s financial heavyweights but comfortably in the upper half of the major leagues.
“I think it’s a credit to ownership that our payroll is as high as it is now, given where we’ve been as recently as two years ago and where our budget might have been,” Alderson said. “But we’ve had the fortune here recently of being able to take advantage of opportunities, or not have to make moves on the basis primarily of payroll. So from that standpoint, we should all be pleased.”
In 2014, the team’s payroll hovered around $85 million to start the season. Not since 2009, before the dark days of the Madoff financial scandal, have the Mets been on track to begin the season at about $150 million.
The Mets made their biggest splash early, bringing back Yoenis Cespedes on a four-year, $110-million deal. Adding Blevins and Salas rounded out the roster and ensured that this year’s team will look almost identical to the one that reached the NL wild-card game despite numerous injuries.
“We’re comfortable with the team that we have, the options that we have, the depth that we have,” Alderson said. “We’ve played pretty well the last couple of years with roughly the same squad coming back. But I do think we do have the capacity to improve.”
That improvement, Alderson said, could come from simply staying healthy.
The Mets’ familiar group gathered at 9 a.m. with a team meeting headed by Terry Collins. In an hour, television cameras lined the path that leads from the practice fields to the clubhouse.
The action on the field was mundane. In one corner of the complex, Zack Wheeler joined Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey for a bullpen session. Infielders took ground balls. Fans pressed up against fences to see most of the Mets tracking pitches, allowing themselves to get acclimated to the speed of the ball.
Most did not swing. The noticeable exception was Cespedes, who took a few hacks against righty Robert Gsellman.
Alderson remained indoors for most of it, emerging in a hat, shorts, polo shirt and sunglasses to observe the end of workouts.
“We’re all excited,” he said. “I’m certainly as excited, if not more so, this spring than I have been since I’ve been here, and that includes following the World Series appearance last year. So I’m excited, I’m really looking forward to what transpires over the next six weeks.”
Projected Opening Day team salary totals for baseball’s biggest spenders:
1. Dodgers$231. 26M
4. Red Sox$192.75M
8. Blue Jays$160.14M
9. Orioles $157.33M
11. Angels $150.32M