August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks about pitcher Johan Santana (not pictured) during a press conference before a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

A Review Of The General Manager: Sandy Alderson


As a supplemental to Rising Apple’s Season In Review Series, consider this the General Manager’s Tenure In Review.

Sandy Alderson is the twelfth full time General Manager of the New York Mets.  This week marks his second anniversary with the club.  Sandy Alderson’s four year contract is half over.  The organization holds an option on their General Manager for the 2015 season.

The following is more of an account of the current state of the big club, and not necessarily about what will be, or could be, or what exists down on the farm.  Instead this is about Sandy Alderson’s product on the field as we saw it.

At first base, Sandy Alderson inherited Ike Davis.  The lefty slugger is pretty much entrenched there.  The biggest dilemma for Sandy Alderson came when Ike Davis was struggling through a horrific slump, and popular scuttlebutt had Ike being demoted to AAA-Buffalo.  It never got to that point for Ike or Alderson.  Then came the unfounded trade rumors.  Let me just say I feel the likelihood Ike David gets traded, thus making room for Lucas Dudaat first base are slim to none.  Ideally, Alderson should be seeking a right hand power bat to protect Ike in the line-up.  To grade this position is needless.  With a smooth glove in the field, and the potential for major offensive output in the near future, the Mets are set at first.

During Spring Training of 2011, Sandy Alderson finally cut ties with much maligned second baseman Luis Castillo.  Sandy Alderson ate the six million dollars remaining on Castillo’s contract.  Brad Emaus was then given the job, but couldn’t seize upon the opportunity.  After his quick demotion, the GM then tabbed Justin Turner, who turned into a very pleasant surprise.  In 2012, the position was finally handed over to Daniel Murphy.  Is the position improved since Sandy Alderson arrived on board?  The answer is yes.  Although fifteen errors by Murph last season could be problematic.

At shortstop, Sandy Alderson also inherited Ruben Tejada.  He has already become an overwhelming fan favorite.  However, the record will reflect Jose Reyes became a former Met under Alderson’s watch.  To state things plainly, Jose Reyes was not traded at or prior to the 2011 trade deadline in order to protect the Wilpon’s gate receipts.  As we would learn, Sandy Alderson never presented Reyes with a qualified offer, nor made any real attempt to resign Reyes during the free agency period.  Is the position better today than when Alderson assumed office?  The General Manager gets a pass, as most fans are quite content with the new shortstop.

At third base resides the General Manager’s greatest dilemma.  David Wright is the eight hundred pound gorilla sitting in Sandy Alderson’s office.   Alderson has long maintained the organization is resolved to resigning Wright.  At season’s end, he additionally reaffirmed there is no want on his part to trade valuable assets in order to restock the farm system.  He does not feel that course of action is needed.  If I interpret that correctly, David Wright will not be traded in the weeks and days leading up to the 2013 trade deadline.  Of course there is the matter of resigning him over the winter first.

The Mets have already put out a feeler for $100 million dollars.  And I believe it to be a hollow figure.  I feel the offer was designed to be respectful of David Wright’s contributions to the Mets over the years, but at the same time shows an initial lack of overwhelming commitment towards retaining him.  Another club is sure to come in with a higher figure if the Mets let them.  With no pun intended, the million dollar question is, will the Mets engage in a bidding process to make sure David Wright stays in a Mets uniform?  Grading Sandy Alderson at third base will have to wait until Wright is either extended, or departed from the club.

Behind the plate, the Mets have a problem.  While Josh Thole is still a fan favorite, the pragmatists in all of us admit the Mets need a platoon going at catcher.  Josh Thole is also from the prior regime.  But the current General Manager has had little success supplementing the position.  Ronny Paulino, Mike Nickeas, Rob Johnson, and Kelly Shoppach have all been given opportunities.  All seemed rather inadequate.  Is the position better today than when Alderson took over?  No, not nearly.  Catching is one of the club’s glaring needs.  Mentioned here, minus Thole, were four catchers in two seasons which have failed to stick.  A solution doesn’t seem to be coming over the horizon any time soon either.

So how do we grade Sandy Alderson’s infield?  The truth is, we don’t.  Even with the release of Luis Castillo, this is still Omar Minaya’s infield.  However, Alderson is indeed the present custodian, and he could have altered the diamond at any time of his choosing.  In Alderson’s second full season, the Mets finished below the .500 mark, but in fairness to all the Mets, it was a season filled with many positive highlights.  The old saying never the less still applies here – It is what it is.  Sandy Alderson’s infield gets a solid “C” based in part because A)- the team finished below .500, B)- the true Mets deficiencies lie elsewhere, and C)- mainly because the GM failed to significantly upgrade catcher in two seasons.

Otherwise, Ike jacked over thirty home runs and drove in over ninety runs.  Ruben Tejada batted .289 with a .333 OBP.  Murph batted .291 last season with a .332 OBP.  And David Wright needs no narrative.  Maybe a C+ might even be in order?

After two years at the helm, Sandy Alderson’s outfield is impotent.  Mets fans are very pleased to have acquired Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran.  And the trading of Angel Pagan was a nice attempt to acquire bullpen help.  However, in that deal the Mets also received center fielder Andres Torres who has found no favor with the fans.  In the mean time, Sandy Alderson watches Jason Bay like watching paint dry.

Sandy Alderson is in a bit of a bind with regard to Lucas Duda.  He is a better first baseman than he is an outfielder.  That was evident last season.  And according to organizational expectations, he also underachieved at the plate; no revelation there.  The Mets weren’t all too pleased with his sulking either.  His name got mixed into the rumored Ike Davis trade as a fill-in at first.  But it is very unlikely Lucas Duda has a future at first base for the Mets.  He is in all likelihood destined to get packaged in a trade.

The General Manager’s biggest impact upon the outfield has been the acquisition of Scott Hairston.  I’ll apologize to fans of his, but I find the player rather yawn inspiring.  That is because I have a different view of what it means to truly rebuild a team.  As another player with previous familiarity with Sandy Alderson, Scott Hairston is nothing more than a positional version of Chris Young to me.

The Mets are in severe need of a right hand power bat.  Preferably, one comes to them in the form of an outfielder.

On the mound, the GM has thrown his own assortment of screwballs, change-ups, sliders and balls in the dirt.  One of his first acts personnel wise was to non-tender John Maine.  Oliver Perez joined Luis Castillo on the unemployment line as well, but at another substantial financial loss to the Mets.  Those two pitchers clearly needed jettisoning.  But the GM is gambling with two others.  Sandy Alderson decided the Mets would pursue Mike Pelfrey via free agency versus settling with him now, with the thinking they can secure Pelfrey more cheaply.  In the Mets financial situation, that tact can very well backfire on them.  And next to David Wright, R.A. Dickey represents the Mets second major retention project this winter.  Once all salaries are considered, a potential Cy Young Award might drive the price up on Dickey towards a price the club may realistically not be able to pay.  Let us also remember David Wright and R.A. Dickey both placed mild stipulations on their respective returns.  So it stands to reason resigning them will be no easy task, no matter the spin Sandy Alderson presently promotes.

Jon Niese was the beneficiary of a new contract last spring.  Dillon Gee on the other hand will have to wait another season or two before the Mets give him an appreciable raise.  Of the starting rotation regulars, that leaves Johan Santana.  No one knows for sure what kind of season he will have next year.  Regardless, prior to the conclusion of the 2013 season, the Mets will need to seriously consider buying out the remainder of Johan’s contract.  Or not.  There is no disputing however, in the Wilpon’s current condition, the contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay are prohibitive to operations.

Every starting pitcher mentioned above are likewise Omar Minaya guys.  The current General Manager’s projects have been more suspect.  The case of Capuano and Young gives a small insight into the way the Mets do business lately.  Chris Capuano came and left.  After missing all of 2008 and 2009, he started twenty four games for Milwaukee in his 2010 comeback.  Then he signed with the Mets for the 2011 season and posted a 11-12 record in what could be considered a triumphant thirty three starts.  Enter Chris Young.  Signed in 2011 along with Capuano, his comeback effort with the Mets was also a personal triumph for the pitcher.  At the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Mets elected to let the healthier, yet pricier Capuano leave to Los Angeles, while the Mets resigned the oft injured Chris Young, who shares ties to Sandy Alderson going back to San Diego.

We can’t hold Sandy Alderson responsible for injuries suffered to the rotation.  In a season gone awry, the starting pitching was actually the strength of the team.  As it stands however, Sandy Alderson’s only tangible contribution to the starting rotation has been Chris Young.  So we’ll have to grade the GM at face value on this one.

As it turns out, the club’s best closer over the last two seasons was a former Met who still likes to raise his hands at people.  Another Minaya holdover, Francisco Rodriguez additionally needed to be purged, and was.  In return for the troubled closer, Milwaukee eventually sent over minor league pitchers Daniel Herrera and Adrian Rosario.

In a move to bolster the bullpen, Sandy Alderson traded Angel Pagan to the Giants in exchange for center fielder Andres Torres and specifically, reliever Ramon Ramirez.  But in 2012, Ramirez didn’t pitch anywhere near standards he set in previous seasons.

Sandy Alderson’s main free agent acquisition was closer Frank Francisco.  In truth, he hasn’t been that bad.  Frankie does have a knack for making things interesting though.  What was clearly evident during 2012, when he was hurt the Mets suffered greatly in his absence.  His contract expires at the end of next season.

The greater bullpen has been mostly Sandy Alderson’s creation.  To date, this department has been the most difficult to rectify.  Gentlemen such as Jon Rauch, Tim Byrdak, D.J.Carrasco, Jason Isringhausen, Miguel Batista, are but a few from the inconsequential army of relievers to march in and out of the bullpen.  While the unit needs yet another overhaul, help from the minors is finally on the way.  However, the GM still needs to secure left handed relief either through free agency or through trades.  The fact the bullpen needs another make-over means the GM gets a negative review.

If we are grading, I will be somewhat compassionate and give him a D for the product on the field.  Let’s keep in mind however, these last two seasons were spent in a corrective mode.  There are his Mets, and then there are Omar’s Mets.  For the moment, the Mets are remnants of the old regime, and patchwork players brought in by the new.

We know there are reason why Sandy Alderson would rate so poorly after two years in office.  And we know it has to do with ownership and their financial situation.  In Part II of Sandy Alderson’s review, I will turn my focus on the front office and what the Mets are doing organizationally to get this ship turned around.  I’ll take a closer look at the GM’s draft selections, and the overall direction of the Mets.

 

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  • Tommy2cat

    Thoughtful analysis. SA is difficult to grade because he came into an horrific situation in his first year as Met GM. His father had just passed away and the Madoff mess was in full swing, and somehow, Sandy kept it together.

    In his first year, he made wise incremental improvements by releasing Maine, Perez & Castillo and adding Capuano & Paulino, who had a nice first half. The Beltran trade, which netted Zach Wheeler, was a stroke of GM genius as Sandy dug his heals in until he got an A+ pitching prospect.

    The Reyes situation was not handled well, if it was dictated by the Wilpons desire to protect gate receipts, Sandy should have insisted that either they trade Jose or make room financially to secure him. They did neither and, unfortunately, Sandy’s holding the bag. He must feel like Jim Duquette…

    You mention that another team can come in and outbid the Mets for DW – not possible as he’s not in his walk year. By all means necessary, the Mets need to retain Wright as his value to the organization is similar to Tom Seaver’s. He’s like a landmark that needs to be protected and preserved. It’s THAT important.

    Throughout much of last season, I was begging the Mets to trade Daniel Murphy as part of a package to net Toronto’s Travis d’Arnaud or Jake Marisnick, catching and OF prospects, respectively. My attitude about Murph has changed. Once he settled into his 2nd base position, his fielding and hitting improved. Murphy also can play the corner infield positions competently, so he carries value beyond 2nd base. He’s a character guy. Daniel Murphy is a keeper.

    As for our pitching, if it works, don’t fix it. Dickey, Niese, Harvey & Gee need to stay. We clearly do not know what we have with Santana, other than it is his last season in a Met uniform. It would be nice to bring Big Pelf back. I have a strong personal bias in his favor, as he joined my family in the NY Met dugout before a game in 2010 when my son was honored for pitching a perfect game. Our rotation is sound.

    The bullpen can grow from within with the emergence of Mejia, Familia, Edgin & Carson, who will join Francisco & Parnell. I’d like to see us bring back Takahashi, who is now available and who should never have been permitted to leave. Clearly, Sandy dropped the ball on Takahashi, who filled in so many different roles so well.

    As for the outfield – Hairston’s emergence was a pleasant surprise. I really hope he returns this year, as he may be poised to build off last season’s success. Patience is required with Lucas Duda. I haven’t given up on him. Until money clears up in 2014, I’d like to see Turner (love that guy) gets some reps in left field to broaden his utility role. Baxter is a great 5th outfielder. I am a Captain KIrk fan and believe he will return to perform better his 2nd time around. It’s been his history at every level.

    We’ll be quite competitive next year, with the glass half full and rising.

  • http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.blogspot.com/ MikeLecolant.BTB

    Great response Tommy. Thanks for putting so much time into your comment. The David Wright detail just got caught in the swirl of my thoughts. Of course, this is his last season under contract. If the Mets do not re-sign him over the winter, and let him play 2013 without an extension, my feeling is he will be as good as gone. If not signed, the 2013 trade deadline may come and go without him being moved. But if he is still here in September, I believe he will leave for being slighted. The Reyes situation was handled horribly, and we should be looking above Sandy’s head on that one.