New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said club owners haven’t placed spending restrictions on him and that he expects player payroll to be $140 million to $150 million this season.
Alderson’s comments, made today during a conference call, came three days after Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon said they may sell as much as 25 percent of the Major League Baseball team because of a lawsuit in the Bernard L. Madoff case.
The father and son have hired Steve Greenberg, a managing director at Allen & Co., as their adviser to address “the air of uncertainty” created by the lawsuit, after insisting for months that the club was safe from the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
“Nothing I have done has been predicated on issues pertaining to Madoff or the overall financial strength of the Mets,” Alderson told reporters.
Alderson said the payroll is higher than he’d like, and that he felt he needed to spend money this season to add team depth and fulfill contractual commitments.
He said he was aware of the Wilpons’ connections to Madoff when he took the job as general manager in October, and is glad the owners are addressing the issues.
Sterling Equities Inc., the owner of the Mets, Mets LP and the Wilpons were sued by the trustee liquidating the Madoff business, Irving Picard, on Dec. 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
Picard, in court papers, said that Mets LP had two accounts with Madoff that involved taking out $47.8 million more than the Wilpons invested. Picard has followed the line that net winners are subject to lawsuits to claw back any surplus over their original principal.
“The decision to add a minority partner or some other source of recapitalizing the franchise is positive news from my standpoint,” Alderson said. “If there was a financial problem before and it’s being addressed, that can only be a positive.”
The Mets fired manager Jerry Manuel and General Manager Omar Minaya Oct. 4 after the team finished the season 79-83 and missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season despite a $134 million payroll -- one of the highest in baseball.
Alderson said he isn’t privy to the Wilpons’ legal and financial problems, but he’s sure of one thing that will boost their prospects: winning.
“The best tonic for all of this is a winning team,” Alderson said. “From that standpoint, it would be really terrific for us to have a good spring and start out the season well and perform beyond the public’s expectations.”