For example: The Mets will not sign a top free-agent closer -- Ryan Madson, anyone? -- due to an unwillingness to destroy their financial flexibility. "I'd be surprised if we threw all our money at one guy," general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday, noting that he would prefer to split up bullpen funds amongst multiple pitchers.
For example: They will not sign any of the top starting pitchers available, preferring a one-year, incentive-laden contract at a later date this offseason. Though a source said Tuesday that the Mets and Mark Buehrle have expressed mutual interest, Alderson quickly shot down the possibility of such a significant signing, quipping, "That's not happening for us."
For example: They will not trade any of their top half-dozen prospects for Major League talent, preferring to rebuild around their farm. "We're not going to compromise the top end of our player development system," Alderson said.
What the Mets will do is attempt to sign multiple late-inning relievers, a cheap starting pitcher and multiple bench players, perhaps also swinging a trade or two if prudent. With starting pitching all but off their radar for now, the Mets crossed one of the most pressing needs of their offseason wish list by signing right-handed reliever Jon Rauch to a one-year contract, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
But the Mets have said they are looking to sign multiple relievers to fill out the back end of their bullpen.
One name that continues to surface in rumors is Francisco Rodriguez, whom the Mets traded to the Brewers in July. Though Alderson did not completely rule out re-signing the former closer, noting that his 2010 arrest would not factor into negotiations, the GM did admit that Rodriguez -- who recently switched loyalties to super-agent Scott Boras -- may be out of his price range. The Mets met with Boras on Tuesday afternoon, but not necessarily about Rodriguez; they are also interested in acquiring Rick Ankiel as a fourth outfielder.
In addition to adding another outfielder or two -- Alderson also met with the agents for Endy Chavez on Tuesday -- the Mets are looking aggressively at infield help and not quite so aggressively at backup catchers. The former is a need, while the latter is a luxury. The Mets are pursuing each accordingly.
And so it goes on a quiet day in Dallas. With talk of an imminent Albert Pujols signing swirling around the Hilton Anatole, the Mets' agenda seems modest by comparison. But such is the reality of the organization right now. With the Marlins loading up on star free agents, the Phillies revamping their bullpen and the Nationals pricing top-flight starting pitchers, the Mets' potential moves seem like footnotes.
And yet such footnotes are necessary. The goal, Alderson said, is to bring the Mets back to a position where they, too, can throw significant dollars at significant free agents. That process takes years, requiring the club to minimize monetary losses by cutting payroll, all while attempting to remain competitive in the interim. The latter portion of that plan is what the Mets are pursuing now.
It may be difficult to sit idly by while the other teams in their division make significant improvements, but such is the reality of the Mets.
Said Alderson: "It's too bad all the news is being made in the National League East."