This afternoon, Sandy Alderson spoke with Mike Francesa on WFAN for close to 40 minutes. Alderson was extremely open and honest, and this transcript is an absolute must read for anyone who didn’t hear the full interview.
Below is a full transcript of the interview. Alderson’s answers were so in depth and lengthy that they’ll stand alone:
On all potential external outfield options being exhausted-
That’s fair to say. We’ve certainly gone through the list of free agents. Of course other possibilities may open up as spring training develops. There are always trade possibilities, but right now we’re moving ahead with what we have.
On how he feels about the outfield contingent he has in camp-
I’d like to feel a little better about it. We’ve got a lot of unproven players who are all hoping to take advantage of an opportunity, and we have to believe that one or more of them will step up and take advantage of that opportunity. But, in an ideal world we’d have a little more experience, perhaps a little more major league talent on paper. But we have what we have and we’re prepared to move ahead with it.
On whether Lucas Duda will get a full shot in left field-
Francesa asked what the best case scenario is right now in center field-
[Kirk] Nieuwenhuis is coming back off an injury, but had a nice first half of the season last year. We’ll see whether he can build on that. Hopefully that’s more reflective of his ability than the second half before he was injured. We’ve got Collin Cowgill who’s a right handed hitter we think can compete for some time there or in right field. But I’d say that Nieuwenhuis is probably the leading candidate. We’ve got Matt den Dekker we like who has not played above AAA, but there will be a number of guys that get playing time in both center and right.
On Marlon Byrd‘s role-
We’ll see. He did play winter ball in Mexico. He comes into camp, we’ll just have to evaluate him. He’s one of those low risk possibly high reward type players that we’ll have in camp and just see what hes able to do.
On whether he feels there’s a decent chance a numbers game in another team’s camp could open up an opportunity for the Mets to bring someone else in-
I think it’s a possibility, but I don’t want to get into a situation where we’re constantly talking about other opportunities or other people we may bring into camp. What we have is what we have. We’ve got some we can count on. Any team is always looking to improve areas of weakness. We will be in the same mode, but at this point we have the players we have and we’ve got to make that work.
On the strength of the infield and starting rotation-
We like the rotation, the five that we have. There are going to be questions about injury, but that is true almost every year with almost every rotation that opens the regular season. We had a lot of success in 2011 pitching most of our guys most of the way, not so much success in that regard – had to use more starting pitchers, had to go into our depth more in 2012 – but if we can keep everybody healthy, which is true of every team, we like our five (starting pitchers). And I think we like the additional depth we’re beginning to build as well, beyond the top five. Everybody talks about [Zack] Wheeler, but we’ve got a number of possibilities – Jenrry Mejia and so forth – so that below that five I think we’ve got a little more depth this year than we’ve had in the past.
On Zack Wheeler and Travis d’arnaud – is there any chance they could earn a job outright during spring training?
I think that it’s a possibility in both cases. I think it’s not a long-shot, but I don’t think it’s a probability. Take for example the catching situation: if something were to happen to John Buck, then I think it’s very possible that Travis d’Arnaud could be with us, regardless of how great a spring he has had. I think in that situation it may be a little bit different. Wheeler I think is maybe in a little different category. There’s still room for him to develop at the AAA level. If he has a great spring and there’s an injury to one of our other five than we get further down in our depth chart and it becomes a question for us. We don’t want to rush him. [Matt] Harvey had a nice spring until really at the end, had a couple of rough outings last spring. Benefited tremendously from going to Buffalo. But I don’t want to consign Zack Wheeler to (AAA) Las Vegas, but that’s the likelihood at this point.
On there being no innings restrictions on Matt Harvey-
Yeah, he went around 160-165 last year, and if we add 30 to 40 onto that he’s in the 200 range, so there shouldn’t be any restriction on him. Is it conceivable that if we got into the postseason we’d be concerned about it? Yes.
On the bullpen and Bobby Parnell being the closer. Also, how does he feel about the depth and the makings of the overall bullpen?
I like the depth that we have. If it turns out that Frankie [Francisco] is not able to open the season – we don’t know that at this point – but I think in Terry [Collins]‘s case, he needed to make an operating assumption. If we don’t have Frankie to open the season, the depth that we have gets a little thinner. But it’s really about at that point not so much our depth but actually having somebody close the game. Bobby’s done it, Brandon Lyon has done it. We’ve got a couple of people that have done it. Overall, I like the depth, I like the flexibility that we have. We’ve just been looking at some of the numbers. Just on the left side if you think about guys like [Josh] Edgin, [Robert] Carson, [Scott] Rice, we got [Pedro] Feliciano back, [Aaron] Laffey from the left side. We’ve got more depth from the left side than we’ve ever had. Not just depth, but legitimate candidates. Edgin pitched pretty well for us last year, Carson did a nice job, especially later (in the season), but we like some of the other people we picked up.
Is there a young bullpen arm he’s looking at to potentially make a splash?
Everybody knows [Josh] Edgin and had a chance to see [Robert] Carson last year…I think if there’s anybody from outside that our fans may not know particularly well, it’d be a guy like [Greg] Burke, who’s a sidearm specialist and has had some success with that over the last year and a half or so. We signed him to a minor league contract, we put him on the roster before the Rule V draft because of our concern that he might be taken, and pitched well in winter ball and we’ll see. But he would be a nice piece and a different look for us.
On his thought process regarding letting Scott Hairston walk-
With Scott, unfortunately maybe our eyes were bigger than they should’ve been. At the time that we were talking to Scott, there were some other possibilities out there that we didn’t want to be foreclosed from. I know some of our fans say ‘you never had a chance to do this or had a chance to do that,’ but as long as there’s a possibility for us, we’re gonna play it out. For example, with the Justin Upton trade to Atlanta. We weren’t prepared to trade [Zack] Wheeler or [Matt] Harvey, but you never know what a team is willing to do after a period of time they’ve surveyed the market. So we kind of held open the possibility of ‘well, gee, maybe we will be able to work something out with other players in our system.’ Unfortunately, Hairston signed the night before Upton was traded. Had it happened the other way around, we might have been back in on Scott. But if we had made a trade like that, we couldn’t guarantee him the playing time that he was looking for.
On the bench and whether he feels comfortable he has the makings of a bench in camp-
I think it depends on how camp goes. Nice thing about bench players is they’re not front line players and they may be more readily available by trade. We brought in a number of guys that we like, and we just have to see how they fit together. It really is gonna depend on who nails down a starting position – particularly in the outfield – and who doesn’t. But bench wise, from the terms of the catching position, we like the alternatives that we have. We’ll see what [Anthony] Recker can do, we’ve got a couple of others that are behind [John] Buck and [Travis] d’Arnaud. Infield wise, [Omar] Quintanilla is back as a possibility. We’ve got the makings of a legitimate bench and I think that we just have to see how the pieces fit together over the next four or five weeks.
Is he frustrated that he didn’t get the impact outfielder he was searching for?
I’m a little frustrated. We wanted that extra piece. We wanted that piece that would bridge us from where we are to where we think we’re gonna be in short order. Somebody who would’ve helped is in ’13 and was still gonna be able to help us in ’14 or ’15. I’ve said that I don’t think we’re that far away. And with a couple of pieces, let’s say in the outfield or what have you, given what else we’ve had coming, I don’t think we’re that far away. When you miss out on one like that, or come close on one, it’s a little bit frustrating. The thing that I take some solace in is that we’re in on those things. At some point it’s gotta happen.
On whether it was the fifth year vesting option or the draft pick that was a bigger factor regarding Michael Bourn-
I think the fifth year was the determining factor, simply because until we got to a resolution on the contract we weren’t gonna have to address the pick. There’s no question that we didn’t want to go to a fifth year. We didn’t want to go to a vesting option that was tantamount to a fifth year. Also, I think the tenor of our discussions with Major League Baseball on the draft pick changed dramatically from the beginning of this journey to the end, which was too bad. It was also a factor.
Does he feel his plan starting to take shape with the people who are now becoming main cogs on this team? Can he say that some of the pieces he envisions as big parts of the future now in place?
Yeah, I can. Absolutely, unequivocally. Look at the starting rotation and look at the potential that we have. Look at the, I think our pitching across the board – starting rotation, bullpen – the talent that we have in our system, yes we’re getting there. Do we have the right pieces in the bullpen now? I have no idea. We’re gonna find out. All these guys, right now, that we have in the pen, there is not one guy in that pen who’s on more than a one year contract. We’re down to the second year on [Frank] Francisco, everybody else is a one (year deal). We may have some answers in there this year who may not be there next year. But we’ve got lots of flexibility, lots of depth, and we’ve got a lot of young pitching talent coming. I think that’s definitely evident. Catching wise, I think we’re more optimistic about our catching now. Maybe that’s putting all of our confidence on the future on Travis d’Arnaud, but I think our outlook at the catching position is as good as its been in recent years. The infield, again, I think it’s pretty solid and controlled. We’ve got a very solid infield and they’re not going anywhere. They’re either young or they’re under a multi-year contract. And they’re very competitive with infields across the league. Outfield wise, that’s the question mark for us. When you boil it down to two or three positions and they’re only outfield, it’s a lot more manageable. Whereas the pitching, the infield, the catching, you can see manifestations of what we’ve been trying to do. The outfield is still problematic, it’s still something we have to deal with. It’s not like we’re dealing with every aspect of the team at this point. We’ve made dramatic improvement in certain areas and are very happy with that.
On whether he feels he’s set the foundation and is now moving north. Did he think they would get the turnaround in 2012 or 2013, did they pinpoint when they thought the turnaround would come?
I don’t think you can ever do that with any specificity. You try to say if certain things go well…one of the indicators might have been what kind of contracts do we have and when do they expire? I can’t say there was ever any one year we were pointing to, I don’t operate that way. I wouldn’t say there was ever a chronological target, nor is there now. Obviously, we say to ourselves, we know what our situation will be in ’13, we know what potential improvements in our situation will take place going into ’14, we know the money coming off. There are things certainly that we can point to. It’s really more of a qualitative approach, trying to check things off the list. Trying to get better in this area, trying to do this, trying to do that, as opposed to fixing a date. On the other hand, we’re two years in. Not so much on the time invested but based on where we are with our catching, where we are with our pitching, where we are with the infield, where we are with the outfield. We’re getting there.
Has the process been what he expected?
When I came in, you couldn’t really foresee what kind of productivity we were gonna get. [Johan] Santana was hurt and there was a question of when he was gonna come back. You couldn’t really accurately predict that. You can make some assumptions. We always assumed Jason Bay would come back and be somewhat productive. Didn’t happen. I don’t think coming in you really can fully assess everything on day one, because things happen after day one and you have to adjust accordingly.
On the farm system…is it below where he wanted it to be, or is he happy with the progress?
We’re happy with the progress. I’m not thrilled with the process. Our three top prospects (Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard) are guys we acquired from somebody else. We like them because they’re among the top prospects in the game. At the same time, we need to see the improvement from our own drafts and our own international signings. I think that we’re beginning to see that. If you look at our top 10 prospects or so, and it depends on which list you look at, a majority of them were acquired in some fashion in 2011 or later. We got three acquisitions, we’ve got several Latin players who’ve came in a hurry that were signed in 2011. I think Luis Mateo was signed in ’11, Rafael Montero may have been in 2011. Then we’ve got some other guys like Michael Fulmer and [Cory] Mazzoni and so forth. A lot of our top prospects have been signed in recent years and are just not as close as some others. All that good pitching that we have, everybody heard about from Brooklyn (the Cyclones) or what have you – they’re not gonna be in Flushing in 2013. We’ve got a couple of them that are in camp this year –Montero, Mazzoni, and [Hansel] Robles…we have depth in our system, particularly with pitching. One of the reasons our system gets dinged, fairly so I guess, is that we don’t have a lot of position players that are that close. The last two first round picks we’ve taken are both position players, but they’re both high school kids. [Gavin] Cecchini played over his head last year at Kingsport, so we’ve got to recognize that’s not a strength of our system. That’s why it’s important to have improved and solidified other aspects of the team so when you get down to it, you’re filling a particular need but you don’t have needs across the board. You could argue if you’re gonna have a strength anywhere, it ought to be the pitching. It’s hard to get, it’s hard to keep, it’s costly. From that standpoint, I’m thrilled that we’ve got as much pitching depth as we have.
Does he feel confident enough that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are the real deal?
I’m confident they’re the real thing. The question is what constitutes the real thing…the question is what is their upside? Is Matt Harvey a number 1 or 2, or is he gonna be a 3? Does he have the potential to be a number 1 or 2? Yes. It’s not even me, one of the things I rely on is the consensus of the crowd…there is some solace in consensus. Everybody that sees these guys sort of concludes the same thing. I’m confident that we’ve got some quality talent in those two pitchers. We’ll just see where it takes them.
What would make 2013 a bad year?
We’re not gonna be happy unless we have a winning season. Here’s the other thing that we have to take into account: it’s important for us, and I’m not saying more important than winning games, but it’s very important for us that we see the continued development of the players at the major league level and at the minor league level on who we’re counting the next several years. If we had a winning season – let’s say we win 87 or 88 games, and the two or three guys that you talk about (Harvey, Wheeler, and d’Arnaud) don’t have good years, is that a good season?
For 2013, is it more important to develop top talent in the majors than it is to win?
I think both things are important to us. We want to win and we want to set the foundation for winning over and over in the future.
Does he think the Mets can have a winning team with the current outfield?
Yes. The starting pitching has gotta be great. The infield has gotta produce offensively and play well defensively. We’ve gotta get more production out of our catching spot. Yeah, the short answer is yes.
Francesa says the Mets have a bad looking major league outfield, and Sandy responds-
Let me ask you a question. What did our outfield look like last year? I’m not happy with what we were able to do or not able to do with the outfield and I take total responsibility for that. At the same time, I’m not sure that what we have currently is a significant downgrade from what we had last year. That’s not a compliment, but I think there’s been a lot of focus on the outfield. In some ways, it’s detracted from a more fair appraisal of what we have elsewhere.
The State of the (Mets) Union is-
Optimistic. Excited to see what we have here over the next three or four weeks, especially among the pitching and the catching. We’ll see if guys like Ike [Davis] can take the next step and we’ll work through the outfield.