Sandy Alderson did not have much in the way of new information on Monday, but he was somewhat more definitive on a handful of topics.
• He acknowledged what has been blatantly obvious: The Mets will cap their 2011 payroll at $135 million to $140 million. Once arbitration-eligible Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan and R.A. Dickey get raises, the payroll already should be at $130 million. And then the signings of Ronny Paulino and D.J. Carrasco already have allotted another $2.5 million or so to 2011 payroll. What I don't understand is why the Mets can't, say, add another $5 million to that and sign, say, a Jon Garland-caliber pitcher ($5 million plus incentives) -- while shaving off that amount in 2012 to pay for it. I know Alderson wants maximum flexibility next offseason, but it's coming at the expense of severely restricting the pitching quality this upcoming season.
• Alderson said Johan Santana should return around the All-Star break. That's a couple of weeks more than the estimate two people gave me of June. Alderson suggested Santana could return "new and improved." Alderson usually is a straight shooter, but he can't believe that. Most people in the know are concerned Santana will not be able to rediscover his previous level -- and certainly not during the upcoming season.
• The GM said that even if he wanted to trade Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, "there's no market" for their services. That means they're coming to spring training to be reviewed. "If those players don't earn their way on the team, they won't be on the team," Alderson said.
• Because of payroll constraints, Alderson says he's looking for "bounceback" candidates at starting pitcher who have low base salaries. Then he "hypothetically" picked Chris Young as an example. I don't think that's hypothetical. The Mets continue to appear optimistic they will land him.