NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Entering the Winter Meetings this week, the Mets internally estimated their 2017 payroll at around $150 million. That's a bit of a jump for a team that only recently eclipsed the nine-figure threshold, dipping below $80 million for a time earlier this decade.
Given the Mets' current budget, it's also somewhat unsustainable. The Mets would like to enter next season with a payroll closer to $140 million, which they plan to accomplish by trading a corner outfielder -- likely Jay Bruce. General manager Sandy Alderson does not plan to reinvest the $13 million the Mets could potentially save from that deal fully into his relief corps, the roster's lone remaining need.
"I don't want to discount the payroll as a factor," Alderson said. "It is a factor, but I don't know exactly where we'll end up."
With that as a backdrop, the Mets would prefer to trade Bruce before completing bullpen deals, because, in Alderson's words, the team doesn't want to get caught "buying a new house without selling your old one." It puts the club in a compromised negotiating position, as other clubs are aware of the Mets' desire to shed Bruce. But Alderson said he feels confident that with enough teams bidding, the Mets will receive fair value in a corner outfield trade.
Early Wednesday evening, the Mets were still canvassing the market. Among those checking in on Bruce, according to a source, was a Rangers team with expendable relief pitching.
"It does put you in a different situation and it affects other clubs' expectations," Alderson said. "It affects our expectations. But the other thing is, it only takes two or three teams to have interest in a player to overcome all of that. So that's why we don't jump at the first opportunity."
Even seemingly an inevitable Bruce trade, the Mets should enter next season with a higher payroll than they've had at any point since 2009. And it's not just money that's spurring these trade talks. With Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Bruce all on the same roster, the Mets simply don't have enough corner-outfield playing time to go around.
Properly shedding the excess, Alderson said, will be a matter of timing.
"Could we make something work [now]? Yeah, we could make something work," Alderson said. "But do we need to do something tonight? No, we don't."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.