Between the uncertainy surrounding the team's owners and the lackluster attendance at Citi Field over this and the past two seasons, it was unsuprising when Sandy Alderson forecasted a 2012 payroll in the range of $100 to $110 million. It's certainly possible to compete with a payroll in that range, but it will still be a challenge for Alderson to put together a team that can contend next year.
The biggest problem in the short-term is that the Mets have quite a bit of money committed to Johan Santana, Jason Bay, and David Wright next season. How much room will they have to work with under Alderson's estimated budget?
The Mets have five arbitration-eligible players: Manny Acosta, Taylor Buchholz, Angel Pagan, Ronny Paulino, and Mike Pelfrey. I'm guessing they tender contracts to all five. Acosta is a no-brainer, Buchholz will be cheap enough that he could be an incredible value if he simply plays, and Pagan, Paulino, and Pelfrey may not be great but fill roles for which the Mets do not have an obvious internal replacements. Their estimated salaries, loosely based upon the predictions of MLB Trade Rumors, total $14 million.
That leaves the Mets with $81.4 million in salary commitments for next season. That's a range of $18.5 to $28.5 million in spending money for the roster, depending on which end of Alderson's estimate the payroll winds up.
The Mets need to address a few positions, but clearly the main concern is whether or not they will be able to bring back Jose Reyes. If they do, they'll certainly use one Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, or Ruben Tejada at second base. Even without Reyes, there's a chance that those three players constitute the middle infield.
Aside from that, the Mets will need at least one or two relief pitchers, and they would be wise to add depth to their rotation since Johan Santana's health is far from a guarantee. Last but not least, they do have to fill their bench, but that could mostly be done with league-minimum players if necessary.
With or without Reyes, there's not a ton of money to work with for next year, but the margin is not so thin that every open spot on the roster must be filled by $400,000 players. I would guess that if the Mets don't bring back Reyes, their total payroll will be closer to $100 million. If they do sign Reyes, they'll probably push the limits of their self-imposed $110 million cap.