Reese Kaplan -- The Bizarro World of Sandy Alderson


Earlier in the week we excoriated the on-field manager for his ponderous decision making, his overuse of the bullpen, his unwillingness to integrate younger players into regular playing roles, his blind spot regarding underperforming veterans and his inability to motivate his offensive players to perform.  Today we turn our attention to the smartest guy in the room, Sandy Alderson, and what he’s done (and not done) to put the Mets into the predicament in which they thus far have been unable to extricate themselves.

Going into the 2016 season the Mets had several players coming back from major injuries, some of which required off-season surgery.  The walking wounded included Jacob de Grom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, David Wright, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda.  Zack Wheeler had just missed his second full season after Tommy John surgery.   In addition, the end of the year saw DL stints by  Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes.  Throw in the DL time for a getting older Jose Reyes as well. Then, of course, you had the annual injuries by Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares.  By my count that’s 14 out of 25 roster spots that should have been major health concerns – more than half.

So what did the smartest guy in the room do?

Well, he did make a $17.2 million qualifying offer to a guy coming off back surgery which represented a 72% salary increase.  That didn’t seem to be a good use of scarce resources but at the time, to be fair, he didn’t know if Yoenis Cespedes was returning or not.

In a similar hedged bet he picked up the $13 million option on Jay Bruce.  Granted, he didn’t do a whole lot upon his arrival until the final two weeks of the year, but he was a proven hitter and run producer who was necessary and came at a relatively bargain price tag.

He then inked Mr. Cespedes to a middle-of-the-order type of contract which was music to the fans’ ears.  He was clearly the best offensive player the Mets have had since Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry.

Now let’s look at what he didn’t do.

He let big Bartolo Colon waddle his way to Atlanta.  At $12 million per year for his services it was an understandable maneuver.  He was insurance and would not have been guaranteed a starting spot in the rotation.  He probably didn’t want to be the long man out of the pen and the Mets surely didn’t want to pay him that much money to do so.

Once he secured Yoenis Cespedes he had to deal with the traffic jam in the outfield.  In addition to his returning left fielder, he had just re-upped Jay Bruce in right and still had Curtis Granderson in center.  He had Michael Conforto who tattooed AAA pitching, glove man extraordinaire Juan Lagares and the somewhat surprising Brandon Nimmo.  Surely he would make a deal to clear up the logjam out there, right?


Not only didn’t he execute a trade, he actually did what almost no GM in the history of the game did from one season to the next – he didn’t add a single new player to the major league roster.  Now I’ve said in the past I could perhaps give him a pass on that strategy if he’d won the World Series in 4 straight.  In case you hadn’t noticed, the team didn’t advance beyond the one-and-done wildcard game.  Hmmn…that would have suggested there was certainly room for improvement.

What did he do to prepare for the walking wounded’s inevitable time away from the playing field?  Well, again he leaned on what didn’t work last year.  Jose Reyes was brought back as a failsafe for David Wright.  Michael Conforto would be in the minors to make room for Lagares and Nimmo as backups, 36 year old Curtis Granderson would man CF and the duo of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman would be available should one of the starters hit the DL.

Well, the best laid plans oft go awry.  David Wright is already on the 60-day DL.  Lugo is down for the count.  Ditto Matz.  Lagares and Nimmo started the year on the DL.

So what did these developments do to the team?  Surely Michael Conforto would be available to play the outfield  Yes, but the guy Alderson hired to make the on-the-field decisions has decided it is more important to get Curtis Granderson going than to play the guy who is in the top 10 in the NL in batting.  The only reason he has enough ABs to qualify is the spate of injuries that opened up playing time out of not merit but necessity.

Jose Reyes’ struggles are well documented.  The blame partially goes to the Skipper who has decided he would get more productivity out of the combination of Reyes and Cabrera than he might get from Flores (when healthy) or T.J. Rivera and Cabrera.

However, there is a guy inside the Mets organization hitting over .400 in AAA by the name of Amed Rosario.  Here the blame completely goes to Sandy Alderson.  Why would you go with the .100 hitting Reyes rather than the .400 hitting Rosario?  The answer seems to be a combination of both money and stubbornness.  The plan was for Rosario to take over in 2018 and it’s not in his DNA to change course.  Furthermore, the plan was to have him start logging service time 2 weeks after the beginning of the 2018 season.  Bringing him up now would remove the extra year of control that had been budgeted.

So again I must ask the question – are the Mets really “all-in” to win or is the “plan” more important to execute blindly without revision?  They’re in free fall and once again the front office is doing nothing to stop the bleeding.  Wait, wait…they did deliver Matt Reynolds from AAA.  Isn’t it ironic nowadays that the better you are the less likely it is you will be promoted and given a starting assignment.  Ask Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario about that.  If your future is likely that of utility or borderline player who won’t cost a lot of money (Matt Reynolds, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, etc.) then the majors are beckoning for your arrival  It’s kind of like Superman’s Bizarro World where everything is the exact opposite of how it should be.

If the Mets remained mired in a battle for the basement, does the plan change then?  Do they start trying to sell off pieces who likely won’t be here next year (Bruce, Duda, Granderson) or do they double down on the reluctance to promote or start younger players for fear of what it might cost them down the road?  Some assert that actual lineup decisions are dictated from the front office.  If so, I may owe Terry Collins an apology.

Nah, he still needs to go, too.

In a private email exchange prompted by our own Tom Brennan I asked the following question:  What do these players have in common:

  • Daniel Murphy
  • Justin Turner
  • Chris Young (outfielder)
  • Angel Pagan

They all did markedly better after escaping from the clutches of the Great Motivator.

Now on the flip side, who's done better with the bat since arriving in Queens?  I'll give you Yoenis Cespedes...anyone else...Bueller???

How is it that people improve upon leaving but diminish upon arriving?

That being said, allow me to clear my throat and praise the old dog for learning a new trick.  Just last night Jeurys Familia once again had lost it and it was clear to everyone.  This time Collins finally yanked his closer despite his stubborn reluctance to do so in the past.  How did that work out?  Josh Edgin induced a 1-2-3 double play off the bat of Bryce Harper.  What happened?  Who whispered into his ear to do something DIFFERENT that he's never done before?   Whomever it was, thank you for the win.


Thomas Brennan said...

Is a Reyes revival starting? 5 for his last 10. Grandy remains comatose...he never hits in April but since April games don't count in the standings, keep playing him daily (oh, wait, they DO count?)

Confucious say that if Grandy hits .140 and Trea Turner hits .350, Mets have zero chance. So...Grandy should be benched when Duda returns. Lucas was 1 for 3 last night.

My tablet always respells Grandy as Brandy (I guess because alcohol helps) and Duda as Duds. My tablet is a smart device.

Mack Ade said...

I told ya that Turner would be a hell of a major leaguer...

I'm not excited about Reyes' 10 at-bat tear. You can't hit .070 forever.

I'll target my comment here on the last paragraph. The pulling of Familia was a good sign that TC might finally be realizing he doesn't have all the answers.

Gary Seagren said...

It is Mack except TC might be sweating a little under the pressure of "aren't we supposed to be WS favorite's" ? I still think after years of hearing we have the best pitching staff in the history of baseball the FO is still drinking the cool-ade. We have 2 #1's not 5 as Matz is MIA and both Harvey and Wheeler are work's in progress. I read where someone who had TOS surgery said it takes well over a year to recover which is just perfect for us because that means he won't be fetching a top return for Harvey going into his walk year. Why is it someone like the Yanks Tanaka can have a tear in his elbow and not miss a beat but for us a pitcher can sleep on the wrong side of the bed and miss a few starts? My biggest problem with Sandy's formula is not having setup guy's at the top of the line-up because in my baseball world it's important to actually have men on base for your slugger's. We got a real gift last night because I know no one reading this believed we were gonna win that game so here's hoping it's the start of better things but with TC's game logic I'm afraid it could be a long season.

Mack Ade said...

Gary -

It has to be more than a coincidence that so many Mets go on the DL year after year.

Bad genetics? I don't think so.

Bad draft selections? Probably some of this.

Bad medical staff? Oh yeah.

Gary Seagren said...

Forgot to add the crazy decision to start Harvey last minute on Thursday...what were they thinking there? With all the pampering of pitcher's that is the norm these days they make that choice? Mack is it possible that 2015 was the year for this team and trying to milk more from pretty much the same line-up (less of course Daniel Murphy..thanks FO) is asking to much...guess time will tell.

Adam Smith said...

Huge, huge game to win. I was shocked but happy when Collins yanked Familia. Maybe, in Edgin, we have a Harper-neutralizing weapon. Now, move Walker to 3B and play TJ (and/or Flores when he's back) at 2B, and then sit Grandy and give me Lagares in CF until Ces returns. Please.

Thomas Brennan said...

Yes, yes, and yes, Adam.

Eddie Corona said...

where I am with you is DO they have a plan.. I believe looking at last year and the start of this year Losing Murphy was a mistake. But what was the plan. I am on record that I did not want to sign him (As a 2B) But if we would have traded or cut Duda and had Murphy at 1B i would have not argued. HAVE A PLAN SANDY...

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