As the Mets work on terms with Curtis Granderson, much has been opined regarding General Manager Sandy Alderson’s tenure. A contract in the $50-$60M range could double what Alderson has spent on guaranteed contracts since he took over in October 2010. Of course, this isn’t necessarily Sandy’s fault; the Mets’ financial woes are much-publicized.
As one of the names in the forefront of the “Moneyball” trend (and once serving as Athletics GM Billy Beane‘s mentor), the charge has fallen upon Sandy to get creative. Trades, minor league deals, and rationing money to where it would most help are the tasks laid before him.
I’d argue he’s done a pretty good job.
Of course, some moves haven’t worked (the Angel Pagan trade, Frank Francisco, Lucas Duda in the outfield), but there has been a litany of additions to this team, many heralded, that often go without the proper applause.
Mike Baxter will forever remain in our hearts for his no-hitter-saving catch, but the Queens native and Padres castaway hit .258/.360/.418 as a Met through the 2012 season (.292/.371/.495 prior to breaking his collarbone on that fateful night) and looked like a valuable piece going forward until regression and luck caught up to him in 2013.
Scott Hairston turned in a career year in 2012, hitting 20 home runs and slugging .504 in 134 games before signing an ill-fated 2-year, $5M contract and being traded from the Cubs to the Nationals.
Marlon Byrd, coming off a miserable 2012 that featured a PED suspension, clubbed 21 home runs for the Mets and played a solid right field before being traded to the Pirates in August for Vic Black, a reliever with potential as high as the gun readings on his fastball.
Carlos Beltran, reinvigorated after being moved to right field in 2011 was traded for Giants’ top prospect Zack Wheeler, who pitched to a 3.11 ERA in his last 14 starts in 2013 with an opponent slugging percentage of only .354.
R.A. Dickey, who Alderson extended after the 2010 season, put in a pair of excellent campaigns (including his Cy Young season in 2012) before yielding an outstanding haul in prospects Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Toronto Blue Jays. Syndergaard is regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and d’Arnaud looks fit to provide a quality bat (and glove) behind the plate for years to come.
Though not an Alderson signing, center fielder Juan Lagares was a complete afterthought until given a chance this season. Alderson and manager Terry Collins were mocked for touting Lagares’ defensive ability. They’re not anymore.
Rafael Montero was a 20-year-old nobody, a likely failure at an age far too old to be signed out of the Dominican Republic, shot through the Mets’ minor leagues with a combination of plus stuff and phenomenal control. At age 22, two years after signing, he posted a combined 2.78 ERA (~2.30 FIP) between Binghamton and Las Vegas (where he was the PCL’s 7th-youngest pitcher).
There are other moves as well. He locked up both David Wright and Jonathon Niese to very team-friendly contracts, helped transition Daniel Murphy to second base, traded a non-prospect (Jefry Marte) for Collin Cowgill, who he then traded for potential-prospect Kyle Johnson. He drafted players like Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki to help restock the farm system, and has assembled a group of as many as seven players (Black, Scott Rice, d’Arnaud, Lagares, Wheeler, Syndergaard, and Montero) who can play significant roles for the Mets at the minimum salary.
Building a championship team starts at the foundation. The Cardinals aren’t perennially good because of guys like Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina (though both certainly help the cause), they’re always in it because they have players like Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, and Kolten Wong (among others) who are all quality contributors that combine to make less than Yasiel Puig‘s $3.7M salary.
If Sandy hauls in Granderson, it will likely come at an overpay (be it a fourth year or a higher AAV), but thanks to the bottom-heavy moves Sandy’s made over the past three years, an overpay isn’t likely to sink the financial ship.
If there’s any real reason to fault Sandy Alderson, it’s that Robert Carson managed to remain on the 40-man roster for more than a full season.