Before Buster Olney reported the deal between Jose Reyes and the Miami Marlins was complete, Sandy Alderson spoke Sunday night with New York reporters, all but conceding. Alderson said he never formally made a bid, because he became aware in a conversation with Reyes' agents that the limits he was working with had been exceeded elsewhere. Alderson acknowledged the Mets losing $70 million played a factor shaping the limits of where the Mets would spend.
Do you have confirmation Jose is definitely leaving?
Alderson: "I've heard what you've heard. I have no way of verifying that independently. We'll see whether those rumors turn out to be true. If they are true, I think that Jose at this point is beyond where we would have been."
You had said you weren't sure, but you thought you'd get opportunity to match. Did that happen?
Alderson: "I've had several conversations with Jose's agents over the last 72 hours or so. So from that standpoint I think that they have known where we might have been and I have known where things have gone, or at least generally speaking where things might have gone beyond that."
In the past two or three hours have you spoken with the Reyes' agents, the Greenbergs?
"No. I haven't. I haven't talked to them since this morning."
And this morning they didn't give you an indication they were on the verge of something?
"There was an indication to me that things were moving. Exactly how far I didn't ask. I didn't need to."
Did you convey to them you're out?
"No, I haven't conveyed to them we are out, but I think they do understand the parameters of where we might have been."
Did you ever make an offer?
"Well, we talked conceptually about all the elements of a contract. So I think there was an understanding on their part of what we were talking about in a complete contractual sense. But we did not make a formal offer."
What would be the message to Mets fans about 2012 if they watch what the Marlins are doing, what the Nationals are projected to do, and the strength of the Phillies and Braves?
"Well, I don't believe Mets fans will be surprised if these reports are true, that Jose may not be back."
The roster is not complete, but you had used the term 'not punting' earlier this offseason. That still holds true? What does that mean?
"I think it holds true from an overall standpoint. Will we be favored going into spring training given what may or may not happen? And keep in mind all of this is speculation at this point. If we get all our players back healthy, which would count among them people like Johan Santana, we'll be fine."
Can you explain why you drew the line at less than the Marlins' offer?
"Well, you have to draw a line somewhere. And based on our experience -- not just with Jose, but with multi-year contracts generally -- and not just with our multi-year contracts, but all multi-year contracts generally, we decided that there were some conceptual limitations to where we would go. One of the reasons we held back for so long was to see where the market might take Jose. One of the reasons we had more communication recently than before was because there was at least some indication that perhaps the market hadn't gone where some people had anticipated. If these current reports are true (laughs), the market may have accelerated considerably beyond where it may have been a week ago, or four days ago."
If you're hesitant to do big contracts to start with, can any of this be interpreted as being happy this player is leaving?
"No, I wouldn't say that we're happy that he may be leaving. But I think as a practical matter, one always has to look at these situations and these types of contracts and recognize there are constraints to be able to sign them and acquire or retain a player. But there's a substantial amount of risk associated with that."
Why was the pursuit of Reyes so restrained? Why didn't you go all-out and make him feel more wanted?
"I disagree with that. The way we went about it didn't indicate anything at all about whether he was the most important thing in our agenda. He was the most important thing on our agenda, which is why we went about it the way we did."
Not following. The Marlins were more aggressive than you.
"Simply being more aggressive doesn't necessarily indicate anything. There's a certain amount of nuance in these things that goes beyond. The fact is if the reports are true, the only team that's being aggressive at this point is Miami. Does that suggest that nobody, including the Mets, has any interest in Jose besides Miami? I don't know. Maybe it's part of an approach."
Absent Madoff, could you have played this differently?
"Bernie Madoff and his specter are always referenced in these situations. I don't really think Madoff has that much to do with it. But when a team loses $70 million irrespective of Bernie Madoff or anyone else, that's probably a bigger factor in our approach to this season and the next couple than anything else."
Is $70 million loss for 2011 only?
"Big losses. Let's put it that way."
If payroll were going to be kept at 2011 levels, if you were going into next year with $140 million to spend, would your limit on Jose and where you drew the line be the same? Or would it have been higher?
"I don't know the answer to that question. It's hypothetical."
You had said Ruben Tejada would be the shortstop if Jose left. Clearly he's not Jose Reyes. How much of a gap is there? What is he capable of?
"If it comes to pass that Tejada is our shortstop, we don't expect him to be Jose Reyes. At some point he will be what he can be as a player. From the team perspective, we make up for the loss of one player at a position with the other 24 players on the roster."
If you're losing Jose Reyes, is there any reason not to embrace the "R" word (rebuilding), recognize you lost your best player?
"Well, if you're referring next to David Wright, I don't think anything Jose does or doesn't do over the next few days has any impact on David Wright. Period. As an example of what a team might do if it embraced your concept, right now we don't contemplate trading David Wright."
No one expects competitive people to "punt" a season, but is it worthwhile to tell your fans we're keeping alive this long shot hope?
"Look, I'm not conceding anything with respect to 2012. OK? It doesn't matter how you ask the question. We're here for the next four days to figure out how to put the best possible team on the field for 2012, whether it includes Jose Reyes or not. We're not conceding anything about 2012. The Diamondbacks didn't concede anything about 2011. The Cardinals didn't concede anything about the month of September. Stuff happens in baseball."
You've been pretty concrete about Tejada as the shortstop minus Reyes, but not as concrete about Daniel Murphy at second base. Why?
"We've got a number of options at second base, and we've got a number of options for Murphy potentially."
Number of internal options?
But you think the starter is already with the organization?
"Maybe. We might draft a second baseman in the Rule 5 draft. Who knows? I don't think there's any reason to name a starter tonight."
But you're not pivoting and pursuing a free-agent second baseman?
"Not right now. No."
The direction the franchise is going, how much more difficult does it make your job?
"Look, we've had challenges. Part of what we need to do is make sure that we get the baseball operation back on a solid footing. We're in the process of going that. So from my standpoint, I've got tremendous confidence in where we're going to be ultimately. Are there some short-term issues that we have to negotiate? Yes. But we're doing that."
Does losing Jose make it harder to sell tickets?
"What do you think? (Alderson laughs.)"
On that point, if you have to increase revenue to increase spending, how do you ever get out of this spiral of less spending, less performance, less revenue?
"If this is going to be a baseball business seminar 101, we need a little more time than we have tonight."
Is it just waiting for the farm system to kick in?
"It's partly that. It's partly how successful we are with other players, how successful we are in keeping players on the field who don't get injured, finding people like Chris Capuano and others. There are lots of ways to approach it."
Do you have a personal philosophy on contracts of five years or more?
"I don't have a hard-and-fast rule. I think you have to recognize long-term contracts are a little risky and you have to be careful about how you approach them. But it doesn't mean you just don't go beyond a certain period of time for any individual. On the other hand, I've been involved in long-term contracts in other places. You just have to be careful. But that's not the overriding factor in this case. I'd love to have Jose is back."
If you had known in June or July you weren't going to be able to re-sign Reyes, is there any regret?
"Not really. Again, we're talking about one of the outstanding players in the game. But he still would have been a three-month player at that point. There are still some limits on what we realistically would have gotten back, so I don't have any regrets about that."
You're fan base was bracing for this. But the reality should make them angry. Do you have concerns that you're losing them?
"Look, I've been very straightforward about this situation for many weeks. And if the numbers are what are speculated and Jose does leave us, I don't think people will be surprised that under those circumstances he went elsewhere. It doesn't mean they'll be happy about it, but I do believe the fans of New York are extremely knowledgeable and understand what the nuances are and where some of the break points might be.
"Look, one of the reasons we hesitated over a period of time was the concern that somebody might view it as an attempt to finish second, OK? We weren't going to get in that business. So we waited and felt there might be a time that something made sense for us and was realistically a possibility for them. And I think there was a period of time when that might have been the case. But like anything, things change. And things can change dramatically in a hurry."