Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson just finished a lengthy interview with Mike Francesa on WFAN. Below are the key things Alderson had to say (my thoughts – where merited – are below the quotes).
On the direction of the team:
"There was this doom and gloom sense surrounding the team…a month and a half, two months later, the team is playing better…there was an entirely different mindset or sense about the team. Then of course we had the injury to [Matt] Harvey, and we’re back into the same sort of despondency…negative things are gonna happen time to time. That doesn’t mean the plan changes. It doesn’t mean the plan’s a bunch of baloney…these things happen in baseball, and we have to be able to accommodate on the field the fact that these things do happen and are setbacks. But they don’t have to be terminal. They’re gonna require adjustment…I do believe that what people have seen…the basic storyline of this season has already been written."
Alderson is right about there being no reason to be despondent. The Harvey injury stings, but there’s no reason to believe it’ll be a death knell for the franchise. They were headed in the right direction with or without Harvey. If Harvey misses the 2014 season, it’ll be a blow. But it doesn’t erase all the good this team has done.
How much has Harvey’s injury impacted the good feeling?
"Once it happened, we have to absorb it, we have to accept it, and we have to move on. For example, Zack Wheeler’s pitched far better than people expected…I think there’s lots of reasons for optimism. The Harvey injury was a shock to the system…that’s why we have white blood cells."
On the Marlon Byrd deal:
"We looked at it (the market) at the trade deadline in july, didn’t like what we’d been offered and were fortunate the second time around…from our standpoint, we were very happy with what we got. It was far more than what we could’ve gotten at the end of July. We got a good young prospect (Dilson Herrera) and somebody (Vic Black) that might help us in the bullpen more immediately. That was a deal we made regardless of what ended up happening to Harvey."
Alderson continues to show that he’s adept at winning trades. He stole Zack Wheeler, fleeced the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, and turned what basically amounts to one month of Marlon Byrd into Dilson Herrera (who’s ranked as the team’s ninth best prospect) and hard throwing reliever Vic Black.
"Aug 26, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks about starting pitcher Matt Harvey (not pictured) during a press conference before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. It was announced today that Harvey has a partially torn UCL. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports"
"I actually think the injury to Ike [Davis] may make it easier for us to make a decision going into the offseason, because it’s gonna give [Lucas] Duda substantially more playing time in September. I’m not sure what Ike was gonna do in September that might’ve changed the evaluation."
How does he feel about Ike Davis?
"I think there’s some positives. Since he’s come back (from AAA Las Vegas), he’s had a very high on base percentage, his batting average has been fine. He hasn’t shown any power. Has he given up the power to get the batting average and on base percentage up a little bit? I don’t know. My hope had been Ike becoming a little more selective at the plate…would eventually see that power come back once he got his confidence back. I think there are reasons to believe that Ike was very definitely headed in the right direction."
Parsing Alderson’s words here, even though he said that he thought Davis was headed in the right direction, I get the feeling that Davis is a legitimate non-tender candidate. Alderson values power, and Ike hasn’t provided it this year. Alderson’s negative comments about Ike and positive ones about Lucas Duda are telling. Personally, I’d give Ike another shot. We’ll see how it plays out.
Thoughts on Lucas Duda:
"Duda has, not-withstanding a .235 batting average, I think when he got hurt he had the 2nd highest OPS on the team. So he’d been doing something right…I think he still has that potential (middle of the order bat). He showed the other day that he could still hit left handed pitching, probably a little better than Ike has in the past. So I think it’s gonna be, if you wanna look at the half full analogy, I think getting a chance to see Duda a little more at first base over the next month is a little bit of a positive."
On Ruben Tejada being in the doghouse:
"I don’t think that’s the case at the moment. He’s played pretty well…one of the problems with Ruben is it’s like pulling teeth. Extra batting practice, extra this, extra that. It just doesn’t happen necessarily unless somebody else is insisting on it. That’s what we need to see. We need to see a commitment to improvement. He’s very young…now he’s been put in a position where he has to earn it. We thought of bringing him up first of September…without him, it’d be tough for Vegas, so we decided to leave him there. We’ll see Ruben hopefully in a week or so."
Alderson’s candor here was eye opening. Calling out a player’s work ethic is pretty harsh, and Alderson did it without a second thought.
Has Eric Young, Jr. done enough to be in the 2014 plans?
"He has given us something that we hadn’t had before. Some speed on the bases…he’s played better defense in left field than we had had before. Whether he’s an everyday guy in left field may depend on two things. It may depend on what else we come up with, and it also may depend just on how we project him hitting right handers and left handers. Ideally, we’d like a little more power in that spot. We’ll see what we come up with in the outfield going into next season. He’s certainly in our top 5 (outfielders) going into spring training."
Young, Jr. isn’t a starting player on a contending club, and Alderson knows that. I think he views him the same way the majority of the fans do – as a solid piece to have on the bench.
Is Juan Lagares firmly in the 2014 plans?
"I have to think so. He’s just so accomplished defensively and he has been approving offensively. He can be frustrating at times because he can chase a lot of pitches, but he’s chasing far fewer now than he did before. His defensive ability has been so critical to the way we’ve played over the past few months. It’s hard to overlook that."
Does the Harvey injury change the pace of the pitching prospects?
"I think ideally going into next season, if Harvey had not been injured, you’d be looking at [Matt] Harvey, [Dillon] Gee, [Jonathon] Niese, [Zack] Wheeler as a solid four. Maybe looking for somebody to fill that fifth spot…and then all the potential that we have in [Rafael] Montero, [Jacob] deGrom, just as two guys that are fairly close. Together with [Noah] Syndergaard who’s not that far away. We felt that we had the kind of depth that could get you down to maybe eight or nine as possible starters sometime during next season. With Harvey out of the picture, you’re down one – but you’re down one at the top. Which probably means we’ve gotta go out and get somebody else for the rotation. And then hope that somebody can step up – deGrom or Montero maybe even out of spring training. By and large we’re very happy with where our depth is."
There were two interesting things here. The first, was that he failed to mention Jenrry Mejia as part of the group of staring pitchers going into 2014. Mejia should absolutely be on that list. The second thing, was that he opened the door for either Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero making the club out of spring training. It’s good to hear that in a year where they hope to contend, the Mets may be willing to look the other way as far as service clocks are considered.
On trading pitchers for bats now that Harvey may be out for 2014:
"I think it circumscribes those plans a little bit…the pitching’s not as deep. But there are a lot of ways to approach it…we just have to be aware of the opportunities, and at this point I’m not sure that anybody knows where the opportunities will be."
On fate of Terry Collins and the coaching staff:
"I think we’ve seen everything but the finish. The finish is gonna be – not difficult to assess – but it’s gonna require a different sort of assessment. The team I think, yesterday aside…one day out of every five (the day Matsuzaka pitches) it’s gonna be ugly or it could be ugly. But with [Jonathon] Niese and [Zack] Wheeler and [Dillon] Gee in the rotation…the team is I think fun to watch. I look forward to seeing [Travis] d’Arnaud hit, I look forward to seeing [Juan] Lagares, I look forward to watching EY [Eric Young, Jr.] play."
Has he gotten out of this year what he hoped to get?
"I think more or less. I think the one thing that we can’t afford going into the future is a period of a month or two months of adjustment. If you look at what happened the first few months of this season, we sort of threw a lot of guys (out there). The bullpen improved substantially, the of defense improved substantially, the defense got much better. But it took us two months to get to that point. We can’t do that every year. So I’m happy – subject to what happens the next three and a half, four weeks, I’m happy with the way we’ve played since the middle of June and I think it portends good things for the future. We’ve gotta be better from the get go and then accelerate from there. The one thing that was a difference this year than the last two years is that we started to see the influx of young players mid-season, which gave us a little more energy, a little more momentum, a little more excitement for our fans…that’s why I think the storyline has sort of been written at this point. September, unless we don’t show up for the next three weeks, will be interesting because most of the young players are here already. The other story is that the minor league system has done so well this year. Not just on a collective basis, teams winning division titles and so forth. By and large…the players have continued to improve and we’ve got some more that are knocking on the door."
Will we know the status of Terry Collins before end of the season?
"It’s very possible we’ll hold it to the end of the season. Partly that’s what we said we were gonna do. At this point, we don’t see any reason to vary from that."
I’d be very surprised if the Mets don’t bring Collins back. However, if the team’s mind was 100 percent made up, Collins would already have been offered an extension. The fact that he hasn’t, means that the Mets are leaving open the possibility (as slim as it may be) to head in another direction if something strange happens with the club over the next three plus weeks.
What has been the fallout from Harvey (the media reaction) that he’s had the most trouble with?
"The sky has not fallen. I think we’re still in a very good position going into next year. I think we can (contend in 2014) if we make the right decisions and are able to strengthen ourselves in other areas. Yes, I think we definitely can. It’s not gonna be easier, but yeah absolutely I do. But again, we’re talking about three guys – [Dillon] Gee, [Jonathon] Niese, and [Zack] Wheeler- who pitched very well the last month. There’s no guarantee these guys are gonna pitch great next year. That’s the thing about baseball…i think we’re fortunate that we’ve got other young players coming. I think we’re fortunate that we’re gonna have more payroll flexibility, and I think those two things make me optimistic about next season."
When will we know game-plan for Harvey as far as surgery or no surgery?
"I think by this time next month we oughta know."