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Winter Meetings Post-Mortem: Alderson, Reyes and Boof

Just a few finishing thoughts on the Mets' week at the winter meetings:

- Being in Orlando, I missed the talk-radio outrage over the Mets’ relative inactivity at the winter meetings. While I certainly understand the fans’ frustration after the past four years, there’s a new reality to accept here, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Would it be great to sign a Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee? Absolutely. Those are game-changing players that get fans excited and sell tickets. Not to mention help contending teams – like the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers – improve their odds of winning the World Series.

Do they fit the Mets right now? No, not when they command seven-year contracts worth in excess of $140 million. So what’s the point in yelling and screaming about what the Mets did or did not accomplish during four days in December? I don’t want to sound like a Kool-Aid drinker here, but we all know the Mets are operating on a limited budget this winter, and that should mean limited expectations for the ’11 regular season. Sandy Alderson and Co. are in no position to compound the franchise’s problems by taking part in what the new GM described as an “overheated” market.

Will that continue into 2012 and beyond? That depends. I get the sense that Alderson will never hand out a seven-year contract during his days as the Mets’ GM. I doubt he’d do a six-year deal either, unless it means buying out arbitration/free-agent years from one of his own young stars. Alderson just doesn’t believe in building a team that way, and really, what’s so wrong with that?

There is an important distinction to make here, however. Don’t confuse an aversion to Werth/Crawford/Lee type deals with not spending money. The Mets already have a $130 million payroll for next season, and I believe they will continue to have one of the sport’s highest payrolls during Alderson’s tenure once he is able to balance the team’s resources a little better. Just because Alderson said he won’t reinvest every last penny of the $60 million coming off the books next season does not mean he can’t improve the team by spending a good percentage of it.

Alderson, as well as his new lieutenants, were hired to get the Mets back to the playoffs and ultimately the World Series. They were not hired to strip the franchise, sell off its parts and become the Flushing Royals. But this is not an overnight process, and the Mets will never be the Yankees, regardless of the fact that only 18 miles separate the two stadiums. What’s wrong with making the Mets into a contender again in a smarter fashion and with an eye toward keeping them competitive for the next decade? The goal is sustained excellence, rather than a crash-and-burn cycle every four years or so, and that’s going to take some patience. How much? Its difficult to say at this point, but Alderson deserves a little time to execute the plan.

-Crawford’s seven-year, $142-million virtually guarantees that Jose Reyes won’t sign with the Mets before the end of the 2011 season – if at all. If Reyes stays healthy, he’s in line for a huge payday, and he’s only 27 years old. If some team wanted to sign him for seven years (it won’t be the Mets) Reyes will get another crack at free agency at the age of 34. Not a bad spot to be in. Alderson said he wouldn’t consider talking about an extension with Reyes before spring training, but there’s no way Reyes’ agents will pass up the chance to get to free agency now that he’s this close. A serious injury would change those plans, obviously, but this is going under the presumption that Reyes stays healthy. Remember, Reyes played no fewer than 152 games during a four-year stretch from 2005-08. A two-time All-Star during that period, Reyes also finished in the top 30 in the MVP voting each year, finishing as high as No. 7 in 2006 and No. 16 in 2007.

-Boof Bonser is known as the guy with the funny name, but in talking with one of his representatives in Orlando, he could be a surprise for the Mets in spring training. Bonser realizes that he has an opportunity to stick on the team’s patchwork pitching staff, and he battled health issues most of last season. Supposed to be an upbeat clubhouse presence as well, and that never hurts.

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