MIAMI -- General manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged the New York Mets are unlikely to pursue big-ticket free agents this winter, but team officials will make a priority of signing All-Stars R.A. Dickey and David Wright to extensions.
Both players are under contract for 2013 through team options and want to hammer out new deals this offseason.
"What we've said over the last couple of months is we're going to make every effort to retain those two guys," Alderson said Wednesday afternoon, before the fourth-place Mets played their season finale against the Miami Marlins. "I think we are in a position to be able to do that. Whether we are successful or not, time will tell. But we're in a position to make a bona fide effort to do it.
"Those are the two big issues. Retaining our own players, as I've said, is one of the key tenets of the approach we're trying to take."
Alderson acknowledged "informal conversations" have started directly with Wright, in part to convince him the Mets are headed in the right direction. When will actual extension negotiations begin with both players' agents?
"How long does the game last?" Alderson quipped.
Mets owners Fred Wilpon and family in the past several months have favorably resolved a lawsuit related to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme and secured $240 million in minority investments in the team. Still, cash-flow issues clearly remain.
Alderson made it clear the payroll, while not fully set for 2013, will not take a sizable leap.
"If you had the uncertainty that existed last spring, it would be difficult to make those long-term commitments," Alderson said, referring to potential extensions for Wright and Dickey. "So I think that's a fundamental shift. ... Not only would we like to see those two situations resolved by the beginning of spring training/Opening Day, I think we'd like to see them resolved sooner rather than later."
That would preserve the option to trade either if a deal cannot be struck.
"There's a preferred time frame from a baseball standpoint," Alderson said. "As you get further into the offseason with the uncertainty of the contract situation, then you do have to start thinking about other possibilities. That's not something we're contemplating right now, but there's that inevitability."
The GM identified this season's payroll as $100 million, but added that the figure includes a $3.5 million buyout for long-departed closer Francisco Rodriguez as well as all 40-man roster players.
"I don't want to give the impression that we're going to be out in the free-agent market looking for significant additions," Alderson said. "We have lots of payroll tied up in a handful of players. That's a situation that gradually has to resolve itself."
Alderson said he wouldn't dismiss inking Wright to a contract that covers the remainder of his career, which the third baseman desires, despite the GM's aversion to lengthy commitments. Wright turns 30 this offseason.
"Would I rule that kind of contract out? No," Alderson said. "I don't know how long he expects to play -- presumably beyond 31 or 32. ... I still hold a philosophy, but I think there are always exceptions to any rule."
Alderson said the organization's priorities are to build through the farm system and retain core players as well as add free agents and trade acquisitions on a "fairly judicious basis."
Said Alderson: "I would say over the first couple of years we've certainly looked to the farm system -- obviously not totally successfully. We really have not, until now, been in a position to retain our core players, which is sort of the second prong of this approach. I think we're in that place now. And then the third: We really have not been able to be involved in a significant way in the free-agent market. We certainly have brought in players on a free-agent basis, but in terms of significant acquisitions, somewhat limited. But I can foresee that changing, perhaps not immediately, but in the near term."