PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In the wake of an offseason that saw the Mets make their biggest free-agent splashes in years, yet remain far below the payroll norms of big-market teams, general manager Sandy Alderson on Wednesday painted the picture of a financially healthy franchise choosing -- but not confined to -- continued austerity.
Alderson contradicted a recent report that the Mets had been operating under bank-imposed payroll restrictions, saying instead that "the answer is clearly no -- there are no constraints on the payroll."
"I feel very confident that [the payroll] will climb back up," Alderson said. "But at the same time, we need to have some success on the field, which drives some attendance, which drives additional revenue, all of those things. I understand that it's incumbent on us to have some success on the field."
Estimating the Mets' payroll as "somewhere in excess of $85 million," including insurance considerations, Alderson said the team is likely done spending this winter after importing three Major League free agents: Curtis Granderson for four years and $60 million, Bartolo Colon for two years and $20 million and Chris Young for one year and $7.25 million.
That means no Stephen Drew, who remains a free agent, and likely no additional relief help.
"I think we've made a lot of progress," Alderson said. "Every team, you'd like to do one or two other things. But we're very happy with where we are right now at the beginning of Spring Training."
Alderson's happy glow has also enveloped captain David Wright, who talked extensively with the GM about his vision before signing a new eight-year contract last offseason. Wright, who has been attending optional workouts in Port St. Lucie since before the Super Bowl, offered support for Alderson's plan.
"If you spend more money in one offseason and get into the situation that we were in a couple years ago, that doesn't help you all that much either if it doesn't work out," Wright said, referring to the period of inflexibility that the long-term contracts of Johan Santana, Jason Bay and others once wrought. "I think that you spend money obviously on the right players, but also give yourself the ability that if you need to make a trade or add payroll midway through the year or next year, you have to be open to that."
Still, Wright said, parts of this offseason did frustrate him.
"I'm just like the fans," Wright said. "Every good free agent, I want us to go sign them all. So it's not about not wanting good players on the team, it's just we had quite a few needs to fill. I think we filled some of them and I expect us to be a better team. But I do think -- and I hope -- that if we need to add payroll midway through the year and leading up into next offseason, that we'll have the ability to do that."
Until then, Wright continued, the Mets will need to rely on contributions from players already on the roster. At first base, at shortstop and in the bullpen in particular, the Mets certainly have room to grow.
"It's not an overnight fix," said Wright, the longest-tenured Met. "Of course, I think that we can go out there and compete and win baseball games, but you can't sit there and rebuild an entire culture, or rebuild an entire team in one offseason. It's going to be up to some of the guys who have been there to do their part as well. You can't just get rid of the team and buy a whole new team. It doesn't work that way."
Or, as Alderson put it, "We'd always like to have more players, but that doesn't always make you a better team."
The Mets, after a winter of tempered improvement, will instead have to find other ways to improve. The next six weeks of Spring Training should reveal how they intend to do it.