PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Before their daily trip to the back fields for morning drills and conditioning, a group of several Mets lounged together, watching the baseball highlights shows that run on a loop on clubhouse televisions.
"How much?" one of them asked, referring to Ervin Santana's one-year deal with the Braves.
$14.1 million, he was told.
"That's some nice scratch," whistled another.
It is the type of scratch that prompts a player like Santana, who rejected an identical $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Royals in November, to end his holdout and sign 2 1/2 weeks before Opening Day. It is the type of scratch that many fans believe the Mets should offer free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, shoring up one of their most pressing weaknesses. But it is the type of scratch that the Mets appear steadfast in their refusal to spend.
No, general manager Sandy Alderson said, the Braves' signing of Santana does not affect his pursuit of a shortstop. Yes, the Mets remain just as unlikely to sign Drew as they were over the winter.
"I'm not interpreting it in terms of our situation," Alderson said. "I don't know that we have a situation here."
Alderson defined the state of affairs as a study in philosophical differences. The Braves, seeking to take advantage of their All-Star-laden roster, wanted to move on from starting pitcher Kris Medlen's major arm injury as quickly as possible, so they swooped in on the open market's lone remaining impact starter. Braves GM Frank Wren said on MLB Network Radio that it took him just one hour to receive approval from ownership for the $14.1 million deal.
The Mets, prioritizing long-term relevance and profitability, refuse to do something similar for Drew, whom they consider only a minor upgrade over incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada.
That made for some awkwardness Wednesday at Mets camp. In the clubhouse, captain David Wright lauded the Braves' signing of Santana as a "great move," calling it "a luxury for one of your best starters to go down and a few days later, you sign one of the premier free-agent starters that's still out there." Later that day, as the visiting Cardinals took batting practice at Tradition Field, the Mets took their first look at Cuban defector Aledmys Diaz -- a 23-year-old shortstop prospect who recently defected from Cuba. Alderson never seriously considered signing Diaz, either.
The Cardinals' starting shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, was another free agent who proved too expensive for the Mets at four years and $52 million. So the Mets went with Tejada, who has struggled this spring after battling an early leg injury.
The front office and coaching staff has stood by Tejada all the while, but fans have called for the Mets to take a long look at Wilmer Flores at shortstop instead -- an experiment that is ongoing. On SNY's broadcast Wednesday, network analysts discussed Drew at length as a full-screen player profile popped into the picture.
This is not an issue that will just disappear. On roughly a weekly basis, Alderson has given press conferences to reiterate his lack of interest in Drew. But as long as Drew remains available, working out at agent Scott Boras' facility just down the road in Miami, questions will persist. As long as the Mets keep one ear trained on the trade market -- Nick Franklin, anyone? Didi Gregorius? -- their players will notice.
The Braves set a precedent in the NL East by spending liberally to shore up a weakness. The Mets have yet to do the same.
"It's not my job to sign players or decide who we sign or don't sign," Wright said. "We have a very good front office, a very intelligent front office. I trust them to make those decisions. I'm here to play third base, not be the deciding factor of who we sign or don't sign."
Or, as Mets manager Terry Collins put it, "I don't worry about anybody else right now. I've got enough on my plate. I'm not like a lot of guys, I don't sit there and mope on the Internet about who's got who. I worry about what I've got, because that's the only thing I can concern myself with."