Today the Mets travel west to Las Vegas —
— Vegas, baby!!! We’re going to tear up this town!!! Where the women at????!!!
Calm down, Jimmy. You need to get over the Vegas thing. Anyway, the Mets are traveling to play the Chicago Cubs.
Ten bucks says Seratelli goes deep. He loves the thin air.
I thought this would be an interesting day to look at Chicago, who have been moving along a similar path as the Mets.
Good idea. I’ve been keeping an eye on Theo out there in the windy city. He’s very similar to Sandy, and yet different in interesting ways, too.
In October of 2010, we know, the Mets hired Sandy Alderson to assume control of the Mets front office. Theo Epstein was hired one year later, in October, 2011. Like Alderson, Epstein was not brought in for a quick fix. Epstein’s goal also became a complete rebuild of the organization, from top-to-bottom.
Epstein was willing to crater, perhaps by design. They’ve been a terrible team the last two years under Theo, and have thus benefitted from the corresponding high draft slots.
A quick look:
2012 Draft, 1st Round:
- 6th overall, Cubs: Albert Almora, HS, OF
2013 Draft, 1st Round:
- 2nd overall, Cubs: Kris Bryant, 4YR College, 3B
2014 Draft, 1st Round:
- 4th overall, Cub: TBD
That’s the kind of thing that can make a big difference when it comes to drafting difference-makers. For the Mets under Sandy, they’ve had to wait around, watch some big names come off the board, before drafting in the 10-13 draft positions.
The transactions that Epstein has made since taking over indicate a patient approach. So far there have been no splashy high-end major league free agent signings. The two longest-term contracts executed indicate a team planning for the future. One was the signing of Cuban defector Jorge Soler to a nine-year contract in June of 2012. The outfielder joins the players listed below as a top 100 prospect. The other was used on young Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was signed to a seven-year contract that does not expire until after the 2019 season. Last July Theo traded away established players Matt Garza and Scott Feldman at the deadline in moves made to bolster the future. Garza netted two top prospects from the Texas Rangers, pitcher C.J. Edwards and outfielder Mike Olt.
Both of those guys should be successful, btw. Fans might recall that Olt was dangled as a possible return in an R.A. Dickey trade.
Feldman was traded to Baltimore for pitchers Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and two international signing bonus slots. Alfonso Soriano was also traded away to the Yankees. Due to a very bad contract Soriano was basically dumped to allow the Cubs the ability to move on.
Epstein is not just practicing a measured approach on the team building front. He is another member of the current wave of baseball men who believe patience at the plate is paramount to offensive success.
Both of these guys are egocentric enough to, like God and Bill Parcells, want to make over the teams in their own image. Plate discipline — high OBP — was held out as the magic elixir that
would cure all ills. Theo has promised that high OBP will become “a Hallmark” of future Cubs teams. They are not there yet, but he’s preaching the same patient approach as Sandy. Both these guys are True Believers. They go to the same Church of Baseball. However, easier said than done. When I read about Starlin Castro’s regression and confusion at the plate, it all sounds eerily familiar. And likewise, Rizzo has learned to walk more — but the power has dropped off.
Castro’s OBP in the year before Epstein arrived was .341. In the two years since, .323 and .284. His walks remained flat, and he is getting less hits. Whatever they are telling him, it’s not working.
I question the extent to which it is a teachable skill. I suspect Sandy has similar thoughts. That’s been a feature of his drafts, IMO: The Mets are actively seeking those types of hitters. On the down side, they might be bypassing some pure-talent swatters out there who don’t fit the mold.
Whatever the thinking is, it is beyond me. I heard Alderson on the radio in the winter. He was asked if Daniel Murphy was a leadoff candidate and Sandy sarcastically referenced Murphy’s OBP as the reason that Murphy cannot bat leadoff. Murphy’s lifetime OBP is .330. Chris Young, on the other hand, is getting serious consideration for the leadoff spot. His career OBP is .315. Now Young walks more, and Murphy gets more hits. Has it now come to that, are walks considered superior to hits? I don’t understand that.
In conclusion, I figured I’d list the two team’s best prospects. I’ll use Jonathon Mayo’s composite list as a basis, which combined rankings from Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and ESPN. Mets in boldface.
- 4. Javier Baez, SS: Via 2011 Draft (4th overall, pre-Esptein)
- 11. Kris Bryant, 3B: Via 2013 Draft, 2nd overall.
- 14. Noah Syndergaard, P: Via Trade, R.A. Dickey
- 24. Albert Almora, OF: Via Draft, 6th overall.
- 33. Travis d’Arnaud, C: Via Trade, R.A. Dickey
- 38. Jorge Soler, OF: Cuban defector, signed to 9 Yr/$30 MM deal, June 2012.
- 57. C.J. Edwards, P: Via Trade, Matt Garza
- 76. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B: Signed as International Free Agent, 2008
- 79. Rafael Montero, P: Signed as International Free Agent, 2011.
- 81. Dominic Smith, 1B: Via Draft, 11th overall.
- 100. Pierce Johnson, P: Via Draft, 43rd overall.
- 111. Wilmer Flores, INF: Signed as International Free Agent, 2007
- 123. Brandon Nimmo, OF: Via Draft, 13th overall.
Anything strike you, Mike?
Well, as you mentioned earlier, the Cubs have been worse on the field and that creates an advantage in the draft. Epstein has surely not went out of his way to do any quick fixes, but he inherited a bad team and bad roster. The Cubs were 20 games under the season before Epstein took over. Alderson inherited a near .500 team with major assets such as Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriquez, and R.A. Dickey on the roster. Because of this the team has never been as bad as the Cubs, and this has made it easier for Epstein to navigate the annual draft. The flip side is that Alderson had more chips available to use to rebuild the farm quickly.
Also, there is Soler at 38. Soler was about money, and Epstein has the advantage of working in a big market for owners who did not invest all their capital in a Ponzi fund. And one last aside, I saw Alcantara, a second base prospect, hit a ball out in the Futures Game last year that might still be traveling. I would keep an eye on him.
Overall, these are two teams who are down right now. For Mets fans the losing has seemed like forever, for Cubs fans it has been forever.
We will see if either of these GMs can get right their franchises fortunes.