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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Wait 'til next year? Not so much

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

If Sandy Alderson had plainly articulated when he was hired as New York Mets general manager in October 2010 that the rebuilding plan would focus on three winters of letting contracts expire and waiting for the farm system to produce blue-chippers, how well would he have been received by the fan base?

Yes, the Mets needed to be fiscally prudent after awarding bloated, back-loaded contracts for years to free agents while forfeiting early-round draft picks under Omar Minaya.

Yet at least those ill-advised free-agent signings offered the fan base some hope -- even if it turned out to be false.

Now?

Well, one of the few positive things you can say about the Mets these days is at least they're not preventing themselves from being competitive in 2015, 2016 or beyond.

During a holiday party on Tuesday at Citi Field for schoolchildren affected by Hurricane Sandy, R.A. Dickey offered pointed comments about his dissatisfaction with extension talks.

Secondarily, but perhaps more important to the overall health of the franchise, Alderson acknowledged the 2013 Opening Day roster may look awfully similar to the end-of-2012 Mets.

"I would expect the roster will look similar to the way it did at the end of last year -- with some exceptions," Alderson said Tuesday. "It's hard to speculate. When you think about it, the trade market, signing free agents and so forth, it's relatively young in the season. It's hard, really, to accurately predict where things will end up."

It also is hard to fathom the Mets regularly going next season with an all-lefty-hitting outfield of Lucas Duda in left field, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center and Mike Baxter in right. The Mets will add some righty-hitting bat at some point this offseason, whether it is Scott Hairston, Cody Ross or some lesser-producing and less-costly option.

Still, for an organization that swears it has modestly more money to spend this offseason, you have to wonder what exactly is going on.

David Wright originally was due to make $16 million in 2013. Under his new deal, he officially is down to $11 million next season -- with $3 million deferred without interest, technically meaning Wright will get half of his original number. Jason Bay, as part of his buyout, similarly reduced his 2013 obligation from the Mets.

Yet the Mets have been inactive in free agency.

"Again, it's hard for me to predict what exactly will happen," Alderson said on that topic. "But we're not going to spend the money in mid-December just because we have it. We may spend it in January. We may spend it at some other time. We may not spend it. But the important thing is we have the flexibility to make a baseball decision about that rather than be constrained by sort of an artificial financial limitation."

Maybe Alderson has sticker shock. He's shopping for 1980s and 1990s prices and the going rate for free agents, while perhaps not sane, is the reality of the marketplace.

Whatever the ultimate reason, this much is clear: Bringing back a comparable roster to the end of last season does not bode well for 2013.