Alderson: Bullpen is priority

Last offseason, Sandy Alderson and his staff placed all of the players under the Mets’ control on a board. Certain players were placed above a line, meaning they were clear-cut options for the 2011 team. Others were placed below the line, meaning they were inadequate and would not be contributors during the upcoming season.

Alderson, at least in a theoretical sense, has done the same thing heading into this offseason. And the glaring need for retooling, according to the general manager, is in the bullpen -- although the starting pitching could use strengthening as well.

“We’ve got four or five guys that I would call ‘above the line,’ that we could go into the season with, in the rotation,” Alderson said. “We have far fewer than that in the bullpen right now.”

By four or five pitchers “above the line” in the rotation, Alderson presumably is referring to Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.

Chris Young and Chris Capuano again are free agents.

Alderson did not rule out bringing either back. He estimated Young -- who underwent the same anterior capsule surgery as Santana -- would not be ready until June or July under the best of circumstances. Based on limited discussions with Young’s agent, Alderson added, Young would prefer to sign with a team at least late in the offseason and rehab under a team’s care as opposed to doing it on his own and signing in-season when ready to contribute.

By declaring he has significantly fewer than four or five relievers “above the line,” Alderson was signaling a major offseason bullpen overhaul is coming. Tim Byrdak is re-signed and would qualify as “above the line,” and perhaps Bobby Parnell in a non-late-inning role, but that may be it.