NEW YORK -- Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon broke a three-year silence regarding the Mets' payroll on Tuesday, calling it a fluid number that could increase before the start of Spring Training.Wilpon, who had not publicly discussed the Mets' payroll since September 2014, said he believes the Mets are well
NEW YORK -- Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon broke a three-year silence regarding the Mets' payroll on Tuesday, calling it a fluid number that could increase before the start of Spring Training.
Wilpon, who had not publicly discussed the Mets' payroll since September 2014, said he believes the Mets are well within a range in which they can effectively compete.
"I understand the fan base's frustration," Wilpon said at a luncheon for reporters who cover the team regularly. "We have the same frustration -- not only myself, but the rest of the baseball department and the rest of the staff here at the Mets. We certainly want to win. There's nobody going out there trying to not win, and not do their best to put us in the absolute best position to win. … The salary that we talk about as a target to start the offseason usually goes up from there. I suspect we're going to be in that same situation this year, as well."
The Mets are on the hook for about $135 million in 2018 player salaries, and the team is actively searching for an additional infielder. General manager Sandy Alderson mentioned that the team is also still monitoring the free-agent market for starting pitchers, with an eye toward potentially finding a late-offseason bargain there.
At or above $135 million, the Mets' payroll would be similar to what it was from 2008-11, before the Wilpon family became embroiled in litigation related to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. But in '08 and '09, only one Major League team -- the crosstown Yankees -- had an Opening Day payroll greater than that of the Mets. Last year, 11 teams did.
When asked specifically about that tumble, Wilpon said he does not believe the Mets must rank among the top payrolls in baseball to compete for a championship.
"I'd rather look at what we can do in terms of wins and losses," Wilpon said. "Being top five in payroll, I don't think that won us a World Series. So we're set out to make the playoffs and do well deep into the playoffs, and try to win the World Series -- not to try and be in the top five in payroll."
The Mets consider injured third baseman David Wright's $20 million salary part of their payroll, despite the fact that they could recoup up to 75 percent of it via insurance if Wright goes more than 60 days without playing. (He has not appeared in a game since May 2016, so the clock will continue running on the policy until he does.)
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Regardless, the Mets contend that they spend a competitive amount. Alderson pointed to the fact that the Mets are the only team to sign a nine-figure free agent since the start of last offseason, inking Yoenis Cespedes to a $110 million deal. (Multiple other teams signed players already under contract to nine-figure extensions during that period.) The Mets have agreed to guaranteed deals with three players this offseason: Jay Bruce ($39 million), Anthony Swarzak ($14 million) and Adrian Gonzalez ($545,000).
"You've just got to take another look at the facts from a slightly different perspective," Alderson said. "We've already spent more money than most teams this season. We've had one of the rare big, big contracts in the last couple of seasons. No, we're not running out and signing everybody. But at the same time, in instances, we've stepped up and signed players and made moves in some cases where others haven't. We'll continue to consider those types of things in the future."
A popular counterpoint amongst fans is that the Mets, despite their spending, are bringing back largely the same roster that went 70-92 last season. But the Mets insist that their focus on medical staff and procedures will allow them to stay healthier and competing for the playoffs regardless of payroll.
"We're looking for the historical norm of what [our pitchers] have done," Wilpon said. "If you look at what's coming back or what should be coming back that was hurt last year, I think that's tantamount to signing some free agents, actually. … What these guys bring could be a big turnaround."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.