2 Guys Talking: Is Sandy Alderson Just a Stopgap GM?

Mike:

Since Sandy Alderson was hired, it has been pretty clear what his mission needed to be. Cut costs. Forget what has been said publicly, any Met fan worth his salt knows that the Wilpons were hurt badly by the Madoff scandal and that there was an actual cash crunch. But I believe that storm has been weathered, and with the values of sports networks exploding all over the country, Fred and Jeff might just be able to put the tin cups away. The New York Times seems to agree.

But against that backdrop we get this factoid: The New York Mets are the only team in major league baseball NOT to sign any major league free agents. Zero. None. Nada. And these two items are hard to reconcile. One year ago we had enough money to sign Frank Francisco and this year it would break the bank to sign Cody Ross? Or Ryan Ludwick? When the team just improved its cash flow? Strange, no? Could it be that this time it is not totally the Wilpons? Is Sandy Alderson the problem?

Jimmy:

Well, yes. But it’s complicated. In the (not quite) Emmy-nominated, one-act satire I wrote a while back, I had Fred complaining to Sandy how Omar used to always come in asking for money:

FRED: Did I ever tell you how Omar used to come into this office? I swear he used to pull some kind of voodoo magic on me. He’d start talking and I’d go into a trance . . . and before I knew it, I was writing checks to Third World countries. That’s why I like you so much, Sandy. You never ask for money!

These Mets are like Sandy’s Ford Hatchback. He still hopes to squeeze six more years out of it, just so long as he changes the oil regularly and keeps the mileage down.

And that was Omar’s gift: he could talk Fred into opening up his wallet. Into believing that we needed Beltran, we needed Delgado, in order to win — since that was the idea. Joe McIllvaine, on the other hand, loathed what he snidely termed, “checkbook baseball.” With Sandy, my perception is of a cautious, prudent man — the millionaire down the block driving the old Ford Sierra Hatchback with 120,000 miles on it. Just as there are transitional managers, and stopgap players, Sandy Alderson might be the Buck Showalter of General Managers. Okay, thanks; but now get out of the way.

With any organization, goals are important. Clearly defined objectives. Why? Because they inform all future decisions. That’s why some fans rightfully killed the Wilpons, years ago, over their stated goal of “meaningful games in September.” It was a joke. Because that’s a far cry from saying, “We want to be the World Champions.”

Mike:

Phillips could have sold Hatchbacks!

Since 1986 the Mets have had two playoff-caliber era of teams, 1998-2000, and 2006-2008. In both cases, our GM’s had the personalities of used car salesmen. Not coincidently, both of them left messes behind, just like the used car that is past its warranty. So, no, we don’t want another Phillips or Minaya.

But I fear Alderson is too cautious to work for these owners long-term. We can see Alderson likes building the foundation. Can he bear to “overpay” for the guys who can get us Championships. Billy Beane gets a lot of rightful credit for winning with a tiny budget. Well, he doesn’t win Championships, and I live in New York, not Oakland. I pay New York prices at Citifield. For that I want a full-out commitment to winning, and I fear sometimes that Sandy is more consumed by proving himself the smartest guy in the room.

Jimmy:

Good point. With Sandy, it keeps coming back to perception. Is he a good guy or another liar? Do we trust him?

As Mets fans, we’re like that girl who’s been burned so many times in the past, it’s difficult to fall in love again. I’m saying: we’re that character played by Lili Taylor in Say Anything. She can write only bitter, angry songs about her broken heart. “That’ll never be me, that’ll never be me!”

Right now, unlike Lili Taylor, I still have a shred of trust in my breast. I’m not hopelessly embittered after all! So, yes, clearly, we have some money to spend. Jon Heyman tweets it as, “quite a bit.” Wright deferred money, we traded Dickey, Bay restructured, Fred refinanced. There is some money, no doubt, let’s not sweat the details. The problem is, where are the players? I don’t see how spending it on the wrong guys really helps the situation. I read this excellent piece, “Why the Brewers are Shunning Shawn Marcum,” and concluded he’s too great a risk for the reward. Likewise, I don’t think Cody Ross would have succeeded in Citi Field; his power would have evaporated. And I believe that cold-hearted, analytical Sandy is facing that same problem player after player after player. Nobody out there is really that attractive in a “building toward the future” kind of way. Regarding Scott Hairston, I think Alderson’s “waiting for the market” strategy might have backfired. We could have locked him up sooner, and cheaper, I suspect.

Mike:

To date we have taken a complete pass this offseason. That is a very strange approach. On paper Cody Ross is an upgrade over our outfielders. As for his salary, that is the current market. I’m not expecting Alderson to bid against himself, but you also have to understand the marketplace or you are going to wind up right where we are today. With money to spend, but nothing to do with it.

By signing Ross for three years, you also have a major league outfielder under contract for 2014 and 2015. I don’t see why that is a terrible thing. You need 25 players under contract, that’s the rules, and right now we project precious few beyond 2013. So yes, Ross is not very special. Is the expectation that by waiting around until 2014 we can do better? I don’t see that, I see the opposite.

If we do nothing, we will enter next offseason again needing many position players. How many quality position player holes can we expect to fill in one offseason? Filling a couple with mediocre Ross types would allow for a slightly better team in 2013 and a better foundation for 2014. With Santana and a large amount of Bay rolling off the payroll next year, Sandy has Gumby-like flexibility anyway. I would hate that the thing holding us back is we don’t have enough complementary players. You can’t just decide when you want to spend, every season there is a finite group of players available in the market.

Being GM of the Mets is not like being GM of the Yankees. It is not the Royals either, and we need a GM who has intelligence but also has a little salesmanship in him. The last thing we need is more regime change, and I’m rooting for Alderson to be that guy.

I’m not so sure he is.

Jimmy:

I actually think trading is the better way to go, but we can discuss that another day. First we need our pitching assets to appreciate. All those nice-looking arms in Brooklyn and St. Lucie last year need to get closer to the bigs. Plus there’s Fulmer and our new Norse God of Strikeouts, Syndergaard. Then I hope we can create a package to land a real-deal outfielder. Sandy is one patient dude — who is, apparently, quite willing to punt for a few seasons. Or maybe he’s just still masticating.

Sandy might still be chewing things over. And over. And over . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 comments

  1. Ken H. says:

    Whether we like it or not, it seems to me that Sandy has been fairly consistent with his message for a couple years, i.e., the Mets are building to become competitive in 2014. As long as the Wilpons are ok with me reallocating my 2013 Mets ticket budget to other entertainment options, I’m ok waiting one more year to see if Sandy makes good on his word regarding 2014. If we’re still looking at a similar situation this time next year, then we’ll know that Sandy needs to go back to work with Bud.

    • Sandy had some quotes recently, told to Adam Rubin, that I read as, 1) He wants “a meaningful upgrade,” which is why (my take) he won’t spend limited resources on mediocre guys; and 2) He says he’s not happy with where they are AT THIS TIME, which means (to me), that he’s speaking about the entire organization. He KNOWS that if our minor league pitching continues to mature, and succeed, that he’ll have the chips to make a major trade. He knows he could flip Wheeler or Harvey today. And in a year, I think the assets might have ripened enough for him to get full value in exchange. He just doesn’t have the ability to make that big trade right now. Meija is a case in point. His low stock soars if he pitches well into July. The Mets have several of those guys. So I’m saying: If that’s true, if Sandy can be trusted, I agree with that approach, painful as it may be in 2013. Does he have the brass balls to make that deal? Yes, I think so. Does he have the will to sign an expensive free agent? Not as confident about that — but maybe that’s a good thing.

      • Ken H. says:

        After taking a quick look at projected OF free agents following the 2013 season, you’re probably right about the fact that a trade will be needed. From my view, it looks like the list is Ellsbury…and then a cliff. And frankly, I’m not sure Ellsbury is the type of player we should be targeting unless you believe in the power he demonstrated in 2011.

        I’m convinced that Alderson will not pay any considerable 2013 $$$ regardless of the potential benefit that may be reaped in 2014 and beyond. Any major contracts he offers will start in 2014. That said, the Mets’ 2013 outfield is going to look like a JV unit. We can only hope that between Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Baxter, Valdespin and Brown, at least one guy emerges as a useful looking player going forward. Otherwise, Sandy will have to figure out how to steal 3 major league ready outfielders over the next 15 months or so to play for us in ’14.

  2. Michael Geus says:

    Forget 2013. If a miracle happens, great. But we have went backwards on talent since the last day of the season. During this same offseason we restructured Wright’s contract and moved money from 2013 to “magical” 2014 and beyond. Yet still, not one legitimate addition has been made to the 2013 team. If “the Plan” is to wait for all of the moves that Sandy will make, bam, wham, socko, next offseason, why not just pay Wright now? Why not get Sandy even more flexibility? We need a LOT of players and it is foolish to think we can acquire them all in one offseason.

    If we do not address any of our needs this offseason, if we pocket another $20 million, then let me be the first to tell you, forget 2013, we are NOT competing in 2014 either. We will have too many holes to fill at one time. I’m not willing to move the bar back again to 2015 or beyond. Jeff has been clear there is roughly $100 million to spend in 2013. That money should have been spent, and now I fear Alderson has already waited too long.

    I look forward to him proving me wrong.

  3. Ken H. says:

    Here’s the optimistic view. Perhaps Sandy Alderson is hoping the 2014 Mets can compare favorably to the 2010 World Series Champion SF Giants. Let’s see how our guys stack up against theirs by position.

    C Posey v D’Arnaud Obviously, Posey has the edge here, but who knows?, maybe D’Arnaud will be even better than expected.

    1B Huff v Davis Huff had a pretty good year in ’10 (26 HR, 86 RBI), but I have faith that Ike can do better than that.

    2B Sanchez v Murphy Murphy’s no stud, but I’ll roll the dice with him over Freddy Sanchez ’10 (7 HR, 47 RBI in 479 PA).

    3B Sandoval v Wright I’ll take Wright!

    SS Uribe v Tejada Uribe had a ridiculous year in ’10 (24 HR, 85 RBI), so we’ll give this one to SF.

    We have no idea how the ’14 Mets OF will look, but the ’10 Giants ran out Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz for the most part. I am hopeful that Mets management can put together a comparable trio. Wash!

    On to pitching…the Giants are often credited with exceptional pitching, but in 2010, once you looked past Cain and Lincecum, there were no sure things. Zito, Sanchez and Bumgarner were just as questionable as what the ’14 Mets will likely be in their 3-4-5 slots in the rotation. Assuming Wheeler and Harvey fill the 1 and 2 (and by the way, they’re going to have to be very, very good), Niese will likely be the 3. Time will tell on the 4 and 5, but between our organizational depth, trades and free agents, I am hopeful that Mets management will cobble something together that looks comparable to or better than Zito, Sanchez and Bumgarner looked in ’09.

    OK. We need a closer. Brian Wilson was pretty good in ’10 for SF. We also need some middle relief. Romo and Casilla did a nice job for SF in ’10. Sandy has his hands full here, but let’s hope that some combination of Parnell, Edgin (and others?) along with whomever we acquire via trade, free agency or draft, can serve as a suitable cast in the ’14 Mets bullpen.

    In conclusion…

    I like the ’14 Mets infield vs the ’10 WS Champ Giants.

    I am confident that the ’14 Mets outfield will be comparable to the ’10 WS Champ Giants.

    I am cautiously optimistic that the ’14 Mets starting pitching staff can be comparable to the ’10 WS Champ Giants.

    I know there’s work to do in the ‘pen. Let’s hope that work gets done. If it does, the 2014 Mets will be better than the 2010 WS Champ Giants.

    Wouldn’t that be nice?

  4. Don P says:

    Not to suggest fantasy baseball has anything but a passing relationship to the real thing, but allow me some latitude. In one draft, I watched player after player get auctioned at prices higher than they were worth. I thought that if I waited and saved cash, the bargains would appear later in the draft. Well, only trash was left and I got all of it.

    Sandy is pulling the same routine.

    A player’s worth is not what Sandy thinks it is. A player’s value is what someone else is willing to pay him. While Sandy waits for a reasonable deal he gets nothing and all that’s left is trash.

  5. Eric says:

    Mike makes a great point with the fact that you cannot fill all of your needs for 2014 in 2014….. And the guys you might add to 2013 would be guys you are adding to 2014, 2015, etc…… So, a professional ball player covering left field at the going major league value has worth……Cody Ross is a better bet to provide decent play as a regular this year and next….and as a beach asset after that…….a guy like that should have been signed because HE would add value in years 2 and 3.

    The operation is a sham….,.,and Alderson’s supposed tie to money ball is that he was “around it” when Billy Beane was doing it….he simply has no baseball resume as far as player selection. He has a lousy record as a baseball guy….and organizer…manager?….maybe. He’s surrounded by two lieutenants who also were “around” the Inez ball success…they have none of their own…just the truth.

  6. I don’t agree with Mike on this one. And Cody Ross, IMO, would have been overpaid mediocrity. Sandy doesn’t have to spend all the money right now. Within 2 weeks, we could have a new reliever, Scott Hairston, and a starting pitcher. Those pieces all cost money, and should help more than Cody Ross. Patience, patience. What matters is not the roster in January, but the one we have in September. Look at Meija, as a trading chip now he’s worth X. If he proves he’s fully back, and pitches well in 2013, his value with be X times 5.

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