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NEW YORK -- Some see the New York Mets trade of Francisco Rodriguez as the first sign of a 2011 fire sale. Not so, says Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.
"From my standpoint this certainly does not signify a change in direction from our continuing attempt to win games this season," Alderson said on a Wednesday afternoon conference call, less than 24 hours after sending Rodriguez and cash to Milwaukee for two players to be named. "One could view this as a slight impediment. But, at the same time, it really should not signal any significant change in direction."
The Mets are 46-45, 11 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East and 7½ behind Atlanta in the wild-card race. This was the first major trade for Alderson since taking over the Mets in the offseason and there has been widespread speculation there will be more moves after the break, with high-priced All-Stars Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes heading toward free agency following the season.
While Alderson maintains that Tuesday night's trade of Rodriguez is "somewhat independent of others," he acknowledged that the Mets are "in a delicate part of the season where wins and losses might dictate what we do."
But, the GM reiterated, "I certainly would not draw any conclusions from this transaction."
The trade does give the Mets some payroll flexibility for 2012. Rodriguez was in the final season of a deal that guaranteed three years, $37 million. He has a vesting option for $17.5 million that is due to kick in at 55 games finished for 2012. The closer is owed a $3.5 million buyout if the option does not vest. Rodriguez currently is at 34 games finished.
That contract vesting would have crippled the payroll-strapped Mets' attempt to re-sign Reyes next offseason.
Instead, it will be off the books. Alderson indicated that the Mets sent "a substantial portion" of the $3.5 million buyout and the remainder of Rodriguez's 2011 salary, which the GM estimated to be roughly $5 million. Alderson did not directly address Reyes' free agency when discussing the new-found financial flexibility.
"I think clearly we now can look forward to in 2012 to considerably more payroll flexibility," Alderson said. "That flexibility to allocate our resources will be very important to us (going into) next season."
As for Beltran, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, Alderson said "a lot of interest" has been expressed by other teams but "we have not pursued that interest to any great length at this point."
He added, "The Rodriguez trade should not signal anything to anyone about Beltran. ... I think far more important in that situation will be realistically how we play in the next week, two weeks, three weeks."
With Rodriguez out of the picture, Bobby Parnell, Jason Isringhausen and Pedro Beato could combine to close games for the Mets.
Alderson referred a question about who would slide into K-Rod's role as closer to manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. But he was complimentary of Parnell's recent performance and Isringhausen's past experience as a closer. He also didn't believe that the Rodriguez deal would be a distraction in the Mets' clubhouse.
The news comes days after K-Rod had switched agents from Paul Kinzer to Scott Boras. Alderson downplayed the agent switch as an impetus for the deal. He said the Mets had been in talks with Milwaukee for the past two to three weeks and the team was concerned that the market for closers would change -- thus potentially diminishing K-Rod's trade value -- if they waited longer to deal him.
"We felt it was better to do something earlier rather than later," he said.
Alderson didn't think the return of David Wright (stress fracture in lower back), Ike Davis (ankle injury) or Johan Santana (shoulder) would impact how he approaches the trade deadline, because none of those players will likely impact the team prior to the non-waiver deadline.
Alderson hopes Wright will be back playing for the Mets on July 22 and said Davis is "some ways away."
He also downplayed the role Rodriguez's 55-game vesting option for 2012 played in the decision, as it was unlikely K-Rod was going to reach 55 games finished by the deadline.
As far as the players to be named from the Brewers, the Mets will choose from a list of prospects provided by Milwaukee.
Rodriguez tweeted Wednesday that he was looking forward to a new opportunity and asked fans to support him.
He also wrote: "I want to thank all the Mets fans for your support during these two and half years in which I wore this jersey."
Milwaukee is tied with St. Louis for the NL Central lead, and John Axford has done well as its closer. The Brewers now can call on a pair of potential closers as general manager Doug Melvin said both Rodriguez and Axford will get chances to finish games as Milwaukee makes a push for the playoffs.
"We're not going to get involved with the roles at this time," Melvin said Wednesday. "When you're a championship club, you need to have everybody pulling together."
The 29-year-old Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves, a year after a fracas with a family member at Citi Field led to his arrest, an injury and the early end of his season. He is a four-time All-Star and set the single-season saves record with 62 in 2008 with the Angels.
Rodriguez is in his 10th major league season. He is 32-27 with 291 saves and a 2.54 ERA with the Angels and Mets, who signed him as a free agent after his record-setting year.Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin and The Associated Press was used in this report.