This afternoon, Sandy Alderson spent a significant chunk of time talking with Mike Francesa on WFAN. I’ve listened to the majority of Alderson’s major interviews, and this is the most candid I’ve ever heard him. Below are highlights of the interview, with each question broken into three sections: The gist of what Francesa asked, Alderson’s response, and my thoughts.
On how he feels about the process of putting the 2013 team together-
Right now it’s an incomplete, but there’s still time in the semester…we’ve been watching the market, we know what’s available…there are a number of things that we’re currently involved in pursuing, and I expect we’ll have some additions before Spring Training starts. To say we’ve been patient is an understatement.
From Alderson’s reponse, he seemed to be strongly implying more moves would be made before Spring Training. He’s guarded with his words, but in this answer and many that followed, he alluded to the fact that he doesn’t feel the Mets will go into Spring Training without adding additional players.
His feelings on Travis d’Arnaud potentially making the club out of Spring Training-
We expect to get a good long look at him (in Spring Training). I think it would be unfair given his situation to say he can’t make the team out of Spring Training. I just don’t want to rule anything out. He hasn’t played since last June…he would’ve been in the big leagues last year had he not been injured…as far as Opening Day is concerned, he could be with us.
Regardless of the above comments, I’d be shocked if d’Arnaud was with the team on Opening Day. All the Mets need to do in order to delay his free agent eligibility an extra year is keep him in AAA for the first 20 days of the season.
His feelings on the current state of the outfield-
The outfield is not a strength at this point…there’s a need for an upgrade at every one of those positions. Some of those could come internally. Center field right now is Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill, who I think will be an interesting player to watch in Spring Training. He’s a hard nosed, dirt player…I think he’s an under the radar addition. Right field is a couple people there, but nobody that would be a headliner for us.
The internal option Alderson was referring to was Lucas Duda. I feel he’s the only outfielder who’s more or less guaranteed a starting spot at this point. Alderson also seems high on Cowgill in a platoon role.
On whether he expects Scott Hairston back and/or another player in the mix before the season starts-
We hope to. With Scott, it’s also a question of playing time. He wants to play, we understand that. One of the things that exists for us is that in order to sign Scott, it’s about playing time and what we can commit to Scott.
The above is one of the most refreshing things Alderson said. The Mets realize Hairston isn’t an every day player, and they’re not willing to guarantee him an every day job. I understand the outfield needs to be improved, but I’m glad the Mets aren’t willing to hand Hairston a starting role.
On whether he’s still in the mix for what could be considered a “bigger” move for the outfield-
We are. To handicap…probably 50/50. There are a couple of things going on, and they don’t both have to happen.
Pretty self explanatory answer here…
Was there any frustration regarding the R.A. Dickey process?
Didn’t have any frustration. The trade percolated for a long time. In the meantime, we had a very good idea of what R.A. was looking for. Things slowed down not because there was this great chasm between him and us, but rather because we wanted to see what was out there on the trade front.
Alderson stated what most felt to be the case: the Mets didn’t fail to sign Dickey because his demands were exorbitant. They failed to sign him because they got what they were looking for on the trade market.
We’re very optimistic and don’t have any reason not to be…Dillon made a pretty quick recovery from his surgery. It wasn’t terribly invasive. He should be fine. Interestingly, Johan apparently feels good enough to want to pitch for Venezuela in the WBC (World Baseball Classic). He’s [Santana] not currently eligible to pitch, but it’s encouraging that he wants to. There’s no reason to think that he won’t be 100% and ready to go. When he shut it down last year it wasn’t because of a significant injury, it was as much fatigue from the reconstructed shoulder as anything else.
I’m glad that Santana isn’t eligible to pitch for Venezuela. That could’ve created a messy situation.
Is it fair to say that Alderson has one eye on 2013 and one eye on 2014?
I’d say that’s accurate, except I would only add that my dominant eye is on ’13. The stronger focus is on ’13, and I know that doesn’t really corroborate with what we’ve done this offseason, but let’s see when everything’s said and done where we are. I can assure you that where we are now is not where we want to be opening Spring Training. It’s conceivable we could be in the same position but it’s not where we want to be.
It’s clear the Mets are focused on the long-term, but there’s no way anyone could’ve expected Alderson to write off the 2013 season. With that said, as he did while answering the first question posed by Francesa, Alderson seemed to strongly suggest that more moves would be made before Spring Training begins in a little over three weeks.
His thoughts about the bullpen-
Let’s say uneasy. We’ve got a lot more young guys that are candidates for the pen than in recent years. We’re not gonna get locked into some low ceiling, stop gap possibilities. If guys are not performing we want to be in a position to move them out. At the same time, we think we have some talented young guys that are on the cusp. We like our lefthanded depth… closing the game is still critical, and we think Frankie’s gonna be healthy but you can’t be sure.
The lefthanded depth Alderson cited was Josh Edgin, Darin Gorski, Robert Carson, and Tim Byrdak. Much like he did with his comments regarding refusing to guarantee Scott Hairston a starting job, Alderson again gave an answer that should make Mets fans happy: he’s not interested in signing mediocre relievers who would be locked into a roster spot even if they failed to produce.
On Brian Wilson‘s workout-
Given where he is in his rehabilitation I think we liked what we saw, but the day we were there he only threw 20 pitches…there was no real issue about velocity - it wasn’t there. He’s got a ways to go. We saw him throw, I saw someone else throw earlier this week in the southeast. We keep looking. When we do convene periodically, that day there’s always a decision to make. If ‘X’ comes off the board are we OK with that? We’re not just monitoring the pulse, we’re all over it.
I think these comments rule out any possibility of the Mets giving Wilson a Major League deal. And that’s OK. I wonder who the other pitcher is who the Mets watched last week…
On the moves Washington has made-
They’re in a slightly different position. ..they’re filling a niche, they’re not reconstructing or having to add major pieces. They’re fine tuning. We need to be in a position where we’re fine tuning and we’ll get there. We’re not in the fine tuning business right now.
This answer jives with a piece I wrote a few days ago after the Rafael Soriano signing. The Mets shouldn’t be concerned with what the Nationals are doing, they should be concerned with getting themselves in the position the Nats are in (and it appears that’s where their focus rightfully is).
On Travis d’Arnaud’s health-
Before we made the trade, we snuck Travis into New York and had him examined. They felt good about his back and we had long conversations about his knee…we were comfortable enough to make the deal, and there’s enough upside there to run that risk.
This is the first I’m hearing of the fact that the Mets “snuck” d’Arnaud to New York before the deal was consummated. Very interesting, and surprising that Alderson would divulge that piece of information.
On the R.A. Dickey trade and a trade proposal the Mets refused for d’Arnaud-
We had been talking to two or three teams about RA Dickey, and we had an interest in a couple players from one team and were prepared to make a trade to that team for those players (they wouldn’t give the players up). After we made the deal with Toronto, we got a call from that team. They wouldn’t give us the two players for R.A., but they called and said they’d give us the two players for d’Arnaud straight up.
I’d guess the team Alderson is alluding to is Texas, since the Red Sox are loaded in the catching department.
On the possibility of Zack Wheeler making the Opening Day roster-
It’s unlikely that he starts at the Major League level. Hypothetically, let’s say we don’t add a starting pitcher between now and spring training. Now, you’re looking at Hefner, Mejia, Familia, Wheeler (as candidates for the rotation). That’s not our preferred result.
Much like his answer on the possibility of Travis d’Arnaud making the Opening Day roster, Alderson seems to simply not want to write anything off. There’s a very slim chance Wheeler is with the Mets from day one in 2013.
On what he’d say to get the fanbase excited-
Again, and I’m certainly not promising anything, let’s see what happens over the next three weeks before camp opens….there’s no substitute for winning, but hopefully our fans that are really very knowledgeable see what we’re doing, and hopefully recognize that we’re not dismissing 2013 by any means. But this is a path that we’ve got to follow.
That was one of Alderson’s more vague answers. Again, every time he had the chance, he seemed to allude to the fact that he expects the Mets to add more pieces soon. After the interview concluded, Mike Francesa stated that he feels the Mets are still trying to make a trade for a “good” outfielder, and that they may have to use one of their main rotation pieces to acquire that outfielder.
On whether he feels his long term plan is on track-
I think that we are well on our way to building that foundation, and I honestly believe that this doesn’t have to be a long term proposition…in that sense, I’m happy with where we are. I’m not happy with where we are in preparation for 2013.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll hopefully get fill ins to the blanks Alderson has left open. He’s not satisfied with the current makeup of the roster, and is clearly working to improve it sooner rather than later. At the same time, he’s reluctant to commit to signing mediocre players in what is likely to be a transition type of year.