LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will have dialogue with other teams about third baseman David Wright, shortstop Jose Reyes and center fielder Carlos Beltran during the winter meetings.
Still, Alderson strongly indicated Monday night in his suite at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel that the chatter is almost certainly just that -- chatter -- and will not lead to a trade.
"I don't think you should take too much from the notion that somebody has mentioned something to us, or that we've had some discussions on a particular topic," Alderson said. "What I have said in the past is that there are no untouchables, but there are some players who would be very, very difficult for us to trade. There are casual conversations that can turn into fodder for casual rumors, and that happens. But I wouldn't read a lot into any of that."
Still, Reyes is a year away from free agency, with the Mets having picked up an $11 million option for next season. And the shortstop may be destined to get a more-attractive contract offer elsewhere next offseason than the Mets are willing to commit. So when might be the right time to trade Reyes -- now, the trading deadline, or not at all?
"I think it depends what you foresee for your team in the coming year," Alderson said. "We foresee a strong, competitive team. I think it depends on what you may have in your farm system. I think it may depend on what someone presents you with in the way of an opportunity. So I think there are a lot of variables that come into play. But this is New York. It's not some other location. So I think we have the ability to be a little more patient with that kind of situation."
Alderson continued to suggest Monday that payroll limitations would leave the Mets as bystanders to big-ticket items. He went so far as to acknowledge that signing two veteran starting pitchers -- whether that's Chris Young and Jeff Francis, or two other names of that ilk -- would be too costly.
He specifically cited the contract the Los Angeles Dodgers recently handed to Jon Garland as a bar that limits how aggressive the Mets can be. Garland signed a one-year deal with an option which guarantees the right-hander $5 million and includes $3 million in incentives in 2011.
"I would say it would probably be one only -- if that," Alderson said about landing a veteran starting pitcher. "We're getting a sense of what the market is for some of that second-tier starting pitching. Right now it's fairly high. A lot of agents are claiming that their players are going to sign this week. Some will and some won't.
"There are players available today. There are going to be players available a month from now. There's no guarantee the players available today are going to be better than the ones available to us in a month. That's the game we're playing right now."
Alderson acknowledged the ultimate course of action could be to bring a bunch of minor-league free agents to spring training and see who stands out.
Yet while Alderson suggested no acquisition is imminent, he added that he wasn't resigned to leaving the GM meetings on Thursday only having signed minor-league free agents Russ Adams and Dusty Ryan and having picked in the Rule 5 draft.
"I wouldn't be that pessimistic," he said. "Not at all."
Once arbitration-eligible R.A. Dickey, Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey get raises this offseason, the Mets' payroll should be hovering around $130 million. Alderson said the limited payroll flexibility he appears to have is not something that has caught him off-guard.
"Nothing has changed since the middle of October when I started interviewing for this position," he said.
As for his Sunday night comment decrying the Nationals' signing of outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract, the GM was more restrained Monday.
"No more jokes," he said with a smile. "This is serious business."
Andy Van Slyke, who spent four years on the Detroit Tigers' coaching staff, became the first candidate to interview for the Mets' vacant hitting coach position. The Mets plan to interview three more candidates before making a selection.