After watching his club go through all kinds of injury struggles last year yet make the postseason, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson improved the team by making a pair of major signings. He sent a message to the rest of the National League.
"We're all-in here. I think it's a credit to ownership that our payroll is as high as it is now, given where we have been as recently as two years ago and where our budget might have been," Alderson said on Sunday after New York's first full-squad workout. "We've had the fortune here recently of being able to take advantage of opportunities or not have to make moves primarily on the basis of payroll."
To make the team better, he brought back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and second baseman Neil Walker with the hope they will reproduce their power numbers, resulting in even more run production than 2016.
After Cespedes turned down the Mets' qualifying offer, the club signed him to a four-year, $110 million contract. Alderson also made a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Walker, who had undergone back surgery for a herniated disc.
Walker accepted the one-year offer instead of opting for a contract with more term somewhere else.
"I think we're comfortable with the team that we have, the options we have and the depth we have. We've played pretty well the last couple of years. It's roughly the same squad coming back, but I do think we have the capacity to improve," Alderson said.
It might be hard to imagine a more injury-plagued season for the Mets than 2016, but the quality talent and strong depth should make any physical ailments easier to overcome, according to Alderson.
"I think we have the ability to absorb some of those blows we've experienced in the past and know will occur sometime this season. But it's like running a marathon — once you've run one it's easier to run the second one. Having experienced (injuries) and dealt with them more or less successfully, I think it does give us some confidence we can do the same," Alderson said.
A major reason he feels the Mets will be better is the quality depth throughout the organization.
After pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz were lost in the second half of the season as the team was pushing for a wild-card spot, New York turned to Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, a pair of prospects who helped New York get to a one-game playoff.
Alderson said he likes the plan manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen have devised that keeps the pitchers limited in how much they throw this spring, even having no-throw drills in a much more conservative approach they hope will curtail setbacks.
"I think it's been very positive, and the feedback from the pitchers has been positive as well. There's a sweet spot between doing too much and too little. I do like the approach," Alderson said.
"I think we have the potential to be better than we have been, so I think we're all excited. I'm more excited this spring than any since I've been here, and that includes the one following the (2015) World Series," he added.
Notes: Collins said the first full-squad workout went well, but he didn't like the down time: "I'm not a big stand-around guy. My whole thing early in camp is `Get the work done."'. Team captain David Wright threw 30 times from 60-70 feet, the first time the third baseman has thrown a baseball since last summer. Wright said, "It was fun, but there's still a little ways to go before I start feeling really comfortable. It was easy today, going through the motions." He also took 25 grounders and hit a few rounds of batting practice. Alderson said he assumes Jeurys Familia's punishment from the league for a domestic violence incident will be handed down between the end of the World Baseball Classic and beginning of the regular season.