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Alderson: Payroll restrictions no longer issue

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- For years, Mets fans have largely taken a "We'll believe it when we see it" approach to the team raising payroll, while general manager Sandy Alderson has at times been combative regarding the budget. But no longer. With the Mets' recent signing of Yoenis Cespedes pushing their 2016 payroll up over $140 million, the GM was insistent Wednesday that financial bounds will no longer hinder him.

That means if the Mets want to add even more payroll come midseason, they can do so. It also means if they want to offer contract extensions to one or more of their young starting pitchers, they can do that as well. Asked specifically if there is a scenario in which the Mets could keep their entire rotation intact for the long term, Alderson answered optimistically.

NEW YORK -- For years, Mets fans have largely taken a "We'll believe it when we see it" approach to the team raising payroll, while general manager Sandy Alderson has at times been combative regarding the budget. But no longer. With the Mets' recent signing of Yoenis Cespedes pushing their 2016 payroll up over $140 million, the GM was insistent Wednesday that financial bounds will no longer hinder him.

That means if the Mets want to add even more payroll come midseason, they can do so. It also means if they want to offer contract extensions to one or more of their young starting pitchers, they can do that as well. Asked specifically if there is a scenario in which the Mets could keep their entire rotation intact for the long term, Alderson answered optimistically.

"Is it realistic? I think it could happen," Alderson said Wednesday at Cespedes' news conference. "I don't want to foreclose any possibility. … I think maybe if the Cespedes signing says anything, it's that there are no possibilities that will be dismissed out of hand strictly for financial reasons."

Video: Five-tool Cespedes is excited to be back with Mets

Such payroll flexibility is coming at an opportune time for the Mets, whose rotation is about to grow more expensive by the year. Matt Harvey was the first to hit arbitration this offseason, earning a $4.325 million salary that is sure to increase in future seasons. Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler could be eligible next offseason, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Signing all of them could conceivably cost as much as $1 billion in total contract value, and some -- particularly Harvey, whose agent, Scott Boras, has a history of rejecting long-term overtures -- may not be interested. But the Mets at least plan to open discussion channels with their young starters going forward, perhaps as soon as later this month.

"When you're talking about long-term deals with younger players, it needs to be a mutual interest in doing so," Alderson said. "And typically we find out about that mutual interest a little bit later, closer to Spring Training or even during Spring Training. We'll see if that happens."

If it does, it will boost the payroll ever higher. The Mets' budget last clocked in above $140 million early in 2011, shortly after Alderson took over. The GM slashed payroll that calendar year, taking it below $85 million at one point in '14. But the budget shot up over $100 million again last summer, and it has since increased roughly 40 percent.

Even if Cespedes opts out of his three-year contract next offseason, Alderson insisted the Mets will continue investing in the team -- whether that means contract extensions for starting pitchers or another form of spending.

Said Alderson: "We don't anticipate going back to those prior [payroll] levels."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets