Alderson's Mets a team in transition

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets fans will not have Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo to kick around during the 2011 season, unless either visits Citi Field as an opponent.

Yet the organization still is on the hook for $18 million for the duo this season -- or a figure approaching that amount should they draw the major league minimum salary by appearing on other clubs' rosters.

Until those contracts clear after the season -- along with the $18.5 million owed to Carlos Beltran in 2011, and potentially Francisco Rodriguez's $15 million with a buyout if he does not finish 55 games this season and becomes a free agent -- the true stamp of general manager Sandy Alderson and the new regime will not be seen.

In fact, even after the bloated deals of predecessor Omar Minaya expire, Alderson may not be able to put his complete stamp on the organization. That's because ownership's financial woes might prompt a precipitous decline in payroll from the roughly $145 million committed to players' salaries this season.

Alderson actually did about as well as he could during his first offseason as GM, considering how little he had to spend.

He committed $2.6 million to land two-fifths of his rotation -- although right-hander Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano, both of whom have recent injury histories, could max out at a combined $9 million if they make full complements of starts this season.

Alderson landed backup catcher Ronny Paulino for $1.35 million.

He landed a pair of backup outfielders, Scott Hairston and Willie Harris, for roughly $2 million.

He filled out the bullpen while only offering one multi-year deal -- to right-hander D.J. Carrasco for two years, $2.4 million.

And he re-signed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who was in his final arbitration-eligible season before free agency, to a two-year, $7.8 million deal.

Alderson and the new regime's influence also should be felt in the upcoming draft. For years, the Mets were good soldiers in trying to hold down signing bonuses, by adhering to a system in which teams were asked by Major League Baseball to keep the payouts to prescribed limits. Other large-market teams disregarded those recommendations and took the best talent available, even if it meant overpaying to prevent the prospect from going to college. But the Mets held firm, to their detriment, in part because of owner Fred Wilpon's close relationship with MLB commissioner Bud Selig.

Now, with Alderson-deputy Paul DePodesta having come on board in part to oversee the draft, the former Dodgers GM pledges to spend what is warranted to restock the Mets' system.

Of course, the impact on the major league club cannot happen overnight. In fact, it should take a few years for those players to have an impact at the major league level -- and that's the players selected from college programs.

Still, the Mets are not writing off 2011.

"We can be good," shortstop Jose Reyes insisted. "I know outside the clubhouse a lot of people don't count on us. But I think if we stay on the field -- me, Beltran, [Jason] Bay -- we can still compete. I know it's not going to be easy, because our division gets stronger and stronger every year. But I think if we play right, we can be successful."