"It was important for me to emphasize that we were going to get going early, in order to avoid any speculation about a Jose Reyes-type approach to this," Alderson said Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells. "So in that sense, it was probably a good idea to emphasize speed, but unrealistic to expect that this was all going to be concluded quickly."
That was a reference to last season, when the Mets let their rivals dictate the market for Reyes, one of the winter's most-coveted free agents. Alderson stayed aloof early in the offseason, did not regularly engage the shortstop's representatives and never made a formal offer to retain him.
After signing with the Marlins, Reyes admitted that Alderson's detachment played a role in his decision to leave New York.
So Alderson is taking a different tact this offseason with Wright and Dickey, each of whom has one year remaining on his contract. The GM is just not progressing as quickly as he once envisioned.
"Conversations are ongoing," Alderson said. "Beyond that, I really can't say much."
Already this offseason, Alderson has traveled to Virginia to meet with Wright, while actively engaging agents Sam and Seth Levinson. He has also maintained a rapport with Dickey's agent, Bo McKinnis.
Rival executives and agents expect that Wright's extension will cost the Mets around seven years and $125 million to $130 million, on top of the $16 million they owe him in 2013. Keeping Dickey should cost two to three years in the $10 million to $12 million range per season. Those numbers could slide one way or the other, but not too far in either direction.
Pretty straightforward, in other words.
So perhaps it comes as little surprise that much of the early talk at these General Managers Meetings has centered around contingencies if the Mets cannot retain one or the other -- most likely Dickey, given the knuckleballer's age and Wright's deeper organizational roots.
Alderson said he does not expect to spend much time in Indian Wells gauging trade interest for Dickey, who would command a significant return given his National League Cy Young Award contender credentials. But Alderson did acknowledge the importance of at least listening to offers, given his club's starting-pitching surplus.
"Pitching is definitely our strength," Alderson said, cracking jokes about the troubled state of his lineup and outfield. "For different reasons, I'd hate to give up an R.A. Dickey or a Jonathon Niese or a Dillon Gee, but it is our strength and something we probably have to entertain. At the same time, we're not looking to go out of our way. If there's a place to have a strength, in terms of where we are and where we want to be, starting pitching is the place to have that strength.
"I don't want you to leave here thinking we're going to trade a starting pitcher, that it's an absolute. But it's logical for us to consider that."
It's logical for the Mets to consider plenty of contingencies, given the uncertain state of their roster -- particularly their offense. But most everything flows through Wright and Dickey, who continue to command the bulk of Alderson's attention.
Though assistant GM John Ricco said Wednesday that the Mets will not be limited in pursuing other players -- they need a catcher as well as multiple outfielders and relievers, all on a limited budget -- while they negotiate with Wright and Dickey, a quick resolution certainly would not hurt.
To that end, the Mets aim to continue progressing with Wright and Dickey back in New York next week. Unlike last year, when Reyes felt unwanted, the Mets have vowed to remain active until they reach a resolution.
"I've been through enough of these that it's hard to say what's close, what's not," Ricco said. "Each of these has a speed to itself, so it's hard for me to predict. But we're still in dialogue with [them] and optimistic we can get something done."