GM sees payroll down next year ... by choice

The Mets are being tight with their payroll this offseason. And when a huge sum comes off the payroll after the 2011 season, don't look for GM Sandy Alderson to reinvest that entire sum next winter.

Alderson said Tuesday afternoon at the winter meetings that he would be foolish to spend the entire amount coming off and keep the Mets' payroll at $130 million or beyond for the 2012 season.

"Look, I don't have any understanding about what the payroll will be or can't be going forward," Alderson said. "But, look, let's say arguably we have like $50 million or $60 million coming off next year. Do I think it would even be prudent to invest that full $50 million or $60 million again in a situation which binds us going forward so that we're only in the market every three years when this lump sum comes off our books? No. That's not how we want to approach this. So next year, if $50 million comes off, it's very unlikely that we would re-spend the $50 million and would commit ourselves for another four years out for all that money and then leave ourselves with a three- or four-year dark period where we can't do anything else."

Still, Alderson said, that's by choice. He does not expect anything as draconian as when Jim Duquette took over for Steve Phillips as GM with the Mets and a $119 million payroll had to be sliced to $81 million during the 2003-04 offseason.

"I'm not speculating on what it may or may not be out into the future, but that's not my expectation," Alderson said.

The GM also said: "There's been an understanding on my part from the very beginning that there was going to be somewhat less flexibility this year than would probably be the case in future years. I not only understood that, I support the idea. But there's nothing set in stone. From the beginning I've said we're probably not in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, or anything in that range. We haven't been. And I don't expect we will be. But this particular week, given what our overall strategy is, I'm hopeful we'll be able to accomplish about what we wanted to regardless of payroll issues."

Alderson initially indicated he was averse to giving out any multi-year deals this winter, in order to maximize the organization's spending flexibility next offseason. However, the GM acknowledged Tuesday that for an inexpensive free agent, he would be willing to guarantee a second year -- and has. Alderson very likely may have been talking about right-hander D.J. Carrasco, who appears moving toward a deal with the Mets.

ESPN's Jorge Arangure reported early Tuesday that the Mets also have been closing in on a deal with catcher Ronny Paulino.

"Our preference now is to stay away from multi-year deals, in part because we want to preserve our flexibility for 2012 and beyond," Alderson said. "On the other hand, to the extent that we consider more than a one-year deal at smaller numbers, that's not going to have as much impact on our flexibility. We have to be a little bit fluid. We have to be a little bit responsive to the marketplace. So I wouldn't say anything is absolutely firm."

Alderson acknowledged he may be about to complete some free agent deals, but he indicated he could not comment at this moment. That presumably involves Carrasco and Paulino. Terry Collins previously has noted the Mets are deep into talks with right-hander Chris Young as well.

"If we were to reach agreement with someone subject to a physical, we would not be in a position to confirm that deal because it changes the liability for us under those circumstances," Alderson said.