- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sandy Alderson continued to portray Ruben Tejada as a strong possibility to open the season as the Mets' shortstop.
Alderson, speaking on the first night of the winter meetings, again cited Tejada's willingness to attend a four-week nutrition and physical training camp near Ann Arbor, Mich., last month as an indication of Tejada's commitment level to the Mets.
New York Mets
"Words are words and actions are actions," Alderson said Sunday night. "I think we've been pleased with what Ruben has done in the offseason. Certainly going to Michigan in the middle of winter, committing to that four-week program, and potentially returning there in January is a demonstration of a commitment that perhaps we haven't seen before. So from that standpoint I think we're encouraged.
"Look, I don't want to be too heavy-handed here. With Ruben, and let's put aside whatever his motivation may be or not be, it's about ability and what he can do on the field. And he's going to have to play good defense and get on base. He doesn't have the power potential that you'd like to see in players, perhaps at other positions. And so he's going to have to do those things well that he has the capacity to do. That's what we saw in him a couple of years ago. That's not what we've seen over the last year or so.
"He's got to play solid defense -- not spectacular defense, solid defense -- and do what he can offensively. We know that he's got the ability to get on base. He can be a tough at-bat. And we need to see that again. It's about exercising his potential rather than wondering whether we're going to see this spring what we saw a couple of years ago."
Alderson noted the free-agent market is "pretty thin" with the exception of Stephen Drew. And the GM candidly noted the Mets would be unlikely to be in the market for someone with Drew's price tag at any position after the Curtis Granderson deal (four years, $60 million) unless they could subtract a contract from the roster.
"It depends on what the final mix of players might be," Alderson said. "We do have some players on the team now who are making some money. We still have some room in our payroll. So could we conceivably bring in a player at that price? It would probably require some roster manipulation, but it's conceivable.
"We came into the offseason hoping to improve in a number of areas. And I think we have improved, hopefully, in one area," Alderson continued, alluding to the signing of Chris Young and soon-to-be-announced addition of Granderson to bolster the outfield. "That, logically, leaves three or four others to potentially address. But, depending on how things materialize, we may live with certain weaknesses. The idea is to minimize the number of weaknesses -- not necessarily correct all of them -- and hope we've constructed a team that minimizes those.
"For example, we can come out of these meetings with Tejada as our regular shortstop. Worse things could happen to us certainly. But, to the extent we can address as many additional issues as we can, we're going to try to do that."