Reese Kaplan -- What Does Sandy Alderson Do Well?


While my feelings about the legacy of Terry Collins are well known, what will be the legacy of Sandy Alderson when he finally decides to head to the summers in a hammock?   He was brought in here to right the foundering ship.  He inherited the whole Omar Minaya/Tony Bernazard/Jerry Manuel mess. 

The team that ended the 2009 had three hitters over .280 – Jose Reyes, David Wright and Angel Pagan.  The starting rotation featured Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese – not great but not awful.  The bullpen was perhaps the best they’ve ever had with K-Rod, Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano, Hisanori Takahashi and Manny Acosta.  The worst of that bunch was Takahashi with a 3.61 ERA.    

Going into 2011 Sandy Alderson had some decisions to make.  Many players were retained, including Wright, Reyes, Murphy, Pagan and you had a return to relative health for Carlos Beltran.  Luis Castillo and his .235 average was replaced with Justin Turner.  Reyes won a batting title.  Offense was definitely better.

The pitching was uneven.  You still had Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese, but Santana was on the DL for the duration of the season.  They supplemented these three starters with Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee.  Again, the rotation was far from great but certainly not terrible. 

Out in the pen you had K-Rod as the sole carry-over from the previous season.  Remember that you had arguably the best bullpen in the team’s history, but Sandy Alderson chose to back up Rodriguez with the likes of Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell, Ryota Igarashi and Tim Byrdak.  That season should have let Mets fans know how little regard Alderson had for relief pitching. 
I’ll leave the Terry Collins bashing for another day, but suffice to say the team with improved offense, probably equivalent starting pitching and a diminished bullpen went from 79-83 to a record of 77-85.  In this case I’ll actually say that given the weaker team he inherited that’s probably a reasonable record for him to have achieved. 

Alderson has done precious little trading during his tenure, perhaps because he usually wound up on the losing end of the deals.  Consider trading Angel Pagan for a sore-armed Ramon Ramirez and replacement level player in Andres Torres.  Or how about the clunker that sent Colin McHugh who has become a highly effective starter for Houston off to Colorado for Eric Young, Jr.?.  Or how about that gem that sent a very productive Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates for the never effective Dilson Herrera and the sore armed Vic Black?  Or the one that sent family violence poster boy K-Rod to the Brewers for Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario?  Say what you will about Omar Minaya’s shortcomings but he was a better judge of talent.

Now Alderson has had a few winners in his day – the R.A. Dickey trade that brought back Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Wuilmer Becerra is certainly one of them, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find a taker for a Cy Young Award Winner.  Prospects are just that and he got lucky with Syndergaard, the jury is still out on d’Arnaud and Becerra is regressing as he faces AA pitching. 

The big 2015 deal for Yoenis Cespedes helped propel the Mets almost singlehandedly to the World Series but the price paid was a steep one with Michael Fulmer having delivered a 19-13 record with a 3.12.  Sometimes you have to give to get.

The trade of Carlos Beltran to San Francisco resulted in prospect Zack Wheeler..  At the time he was selling the myth that Beltran was washed up and his knees would never let him be productive again.  In his post Mets career Beltran has made the All Star team twice, though now at age 40 with the Astros it appears he may have hit the end of the wall.  Compare that output to what the Mets have gotten from Wheeler and that one is pretty much looking bad for Alderson, too. 

Then there was the trade of Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Tip the cap to deciding on Lucas Duda over Davis, but once again he appears to have been skunked in a trade.  Reliever Zach Thornton never even made it onto the 40-man roster and pitcher Blake Taylor is still toiling in A-ball. 

On the contract front, Alderson’s biggest blunder has to be David Wright.  He was coming off terrible seasons and the club was smack in the middle of the Madoff scandal.  There was no money to spend yet they offered him the largest and longest contract in the history of the ball club.  Wright has not lived up to it in any way, shape or form, but it was health and not lack of talent responsible for the folly of the deal.  I was the lone wolf at the time screaming from the rooftops to trade Wright to replenish the farm system with inexpensive prospects, but Sandy knew better. 

Now, to be fair, a lot of money was also eaten during the first few years with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Jason Bay all receiving very lovely parting gifts due to the nature of bad contracts. 

With the uncertainty of the team’s financial future Alderson tried building by shopping at the five and dime.  Do the names Chris Young (outfielder), Scott Atcheson, David Aardsma, Vinny Rotino, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Abreu, Omar Quintanilla, John Mayberry, Jose Valverde, Lohn Lannan or Kyle Farnsworth ring a bell? 

Now there are some times when he rolled the dice and it came up sevens.  He got lucky for awhile with outfielder Scott Hairston.  Rene Rivera has had his moments.  He was ridiculed for signing Bartolo Colon and he became the Mets healthiest pitcher during his tenure here. 

Of course, they say that sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.  Let’s see…how’s staying out of the Cuban and Asian free agent business worked out for the Mets?  How about letting Justin Turner (at just $800K) and Daniel Murphy walk away? How about letting Carlos Torres go?  How about not signing Kelly Johnson as a free agent and then giving up players not once but twice to get him?  How about not adding a single major league caliber player during this past off season?    How about keeping a manager for seven years with a losing record?

Then, of course, there are his drafts.  I think “ugh!” pretty much sums them up. The team has two legitimate prospects in AAA.  Then they're pretty barren on the offensive side of the ledger after that. There are pitchers in the system but Alderson has more often viewed them as trade chips than potential contributors.  

On the whole people who defend the man will point to his two straight post-season appearances and the financial handcuffs under which he operated in the early years.  I don’t know…it seems the team was more regularly in the hunt during the Omar Minaya years even with the bad contracts he handed out.  At least he TRIED to make the club competitive. 

No one knows if Alderson, Collins and company  will be back after this disastrous season, but if you were writing the performance review for Sandy Alderson, how would he fare?


Richard Herr said...

I think Sandy's biggest problem is his inability to judge talent. Think Turner, Murphy, Pagan, and all of Sandy's draft picks. I think a rip-roaring majority of this team is built around either guys that Omar Minaya drafted or people who were traded for with Minaya's chips (Dickey, Beltran.) Yet everybody refers to Minaya's "mess."

Mack Ade said...

I always liked the way Sandy managed to talk a team into one more player in a trade (Becerra, Taylor), almost in a Columbo-like fashion, but alas, they haven't turned out.

Mack Ade said...

The best way a baseball General Manager can be judged is the amount of players that team has in the MLB Top 100 Prospect list.

30 teams means 3.3 player would be the average.

The Mets have 2

Thomas Brennan said...

I was just starting to sleep well again, and now I read this and the flashbacks will be worse than ever. PTSD. POST TRAUMATIC SANDY DUMBNESS.

This all screams out at the reader of the enduring cheapness of the Mets, and a largely very poor farm system when it comes to hitters. And letting two players go who exhibit not goodness, but greatness, for goodness sake: Turner at .309/.382/.509 in 1650 plate appearances with LAD, and Murphy at .344/.391/.587 in close to 1,000 plate appearances, while drastically overpaying for the Stenosis Kid. Turner and Murphy combined post-departure, combined, are playing Hall of Fame caliber baseball.

Also, bringing up everyone and his brother before FINALLY trying TJ Rivera (.306 career hitter in 300 PA) and Paul Sewald, who has pitched very effectively in all but 4 of his 29 games this year, helping keep the pen from total collapse.

Thomas Brennan said...

Off subject, the Mets sign 24 year old Marty Anderson to pitch in Brooklyn, never having pitched in the minors. With the Cyclones getting whipped by a far superior Yank squad, Marty gets called in. What does Marty do in his career debut?

4 scoreless, one hit allowed, TEN STRIKEOUTS. Not a typo.

Might be the best debut of a came-from-nowhere player ever.

Anonymous said...

I think it is easy to use "20-20 hindsight" to make an argument........if Sandy knew that Turner and Murphy were going to ascend to "star level players", I don't think he would have let them walk. Turner didn't show that type of performance during his tenure with the Mets and he was supposedly an ass in the clubhouse. Murphy had a terrific playoff run with the Mets in 2015, but wasn't close to the player he is now, at any point for the Mets before that. He was commonly referred to as a "good bat, bad glove" player without a true position.....and don't forget the dozens of blog posts about his defensive gaffes and his base running blunders.

As far as David Wright is concerned, I think it was a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. If you let him walk, Sandy gets crucified for letting the homegrown "face of the franchise" leave town (and if that had happened, you just know he would have gone on to play like a Hall of Famer for a different club). If you sign him, then you are "doing the right thing", sort of like the Yankees and Derek Jeter (only the Mets have crappy luck and our "Jeter" has the spine of an eighty year old). Again, if Sandy knew he was going to come down with the stenosis issue, I don't think he gets the contract, plain and simple.

Speaking of injuries, I have never seen another club have so many injuries to key players! IF the Mets were healthy this year and they were getting average performances from their core, they are likely in the playoff hunt and we are having a slightly different conversation today. I don't blame Sandy for the rash of injuries, but you have to wonder about the medical staff on some level, which is in Sandy's purview, I suppose.

With that said, you make many valid points and on balance, his tenure has been a bit below average as evidenced by the current lack of depth on the roster and especially the minor league pipeline. I don't hate Sandy or his track record, but you certainly get the feeling that more could have been done with what he had to work with.

I think the team needs to wipe the slate clean at the end of 2017 and go with a new GM, Coaching Staff and Medical Staff.


Thomas Brennan said...

Mike, good points. I do, however, have to disagree on Turner and Murphy.

Turner was a cheap re-sign who was clearly a decent hitter and added versatility and personality, even if sometimes annoying to some folks. Nothing to lose in re-signing him - they were simply too cheap to.

Murphy from August 1, 2015 through the 2015 playoffs was in 64 games and hit .300/.335/.550 with 21 doubles, 2 triples, and 15 homers. And much of that against the game's elite pitchers, including lefties. They were simply blind to what was unfolding right before their eyes. Here was a guy who also could have played 1st, 2nd, or 3rd as well. Huge mistake, and I say that with plain sight and WITHOUT the benefit of hindsight.

Zozo said...

I think you missed the most glaring thing on Sandys resume giving an injured Neil Walker an option to make 17.1 million dollars this year? With more than capable guys to take his place like Flores,TJ and Cecchini.
While not spending that money on
Greg Holland
a catcher

Adam Smith said...

Re: the comment from anonymous above, hindsight is the only way you can judge past performance. "if Sandy knew (XYZ) he wouldn't have done what he did" is a ridiculous statement. He's PAID to know, or at least to guess right once in awhile. If Sandy and company "knew" talent better, they'd have had better drafts, and a strong pipeline. If they "knew" more about conditioning for baseball, perhaps they'd have fewer injuries. If they "knew" about the importance of bullpens (and bullpen management) in today's game, perhaps they'd have built and maintained one. The combined W-L record of this franchise, top to bottom, is abysmal. There are two, count 'em, two "can't miss" prospects in the system, and the overall performance of the lower levels screams that if anything, they've gotten WORSE, not better at talent evaluation. Nearly a decade into this administration, and despite a strong two month run in 2015 (aided by the total collapse of the team they were chasing, and a trade that was apparently Sandy's third or fourth choice, and one he had to be pressured into making) this regime has to be seen as a near-total failure. Now we head into the offseason with a ton of money coming off the books, facing the weakest free agent class in memory, and without significant trade chips. These guys need to go, though with ownership being what it is, I have little faith that they will, nor in the quality of their replacements if they do.

Viper said...

I give Sandy a big "F". His biggest issue for me was that he never implemented a plan and stuck with it long enough to see it through.

What is so confusing about taking the best player available when your turn comes up? If an absolute stud pitcher is there, you take him but if not, you take the position player.

There those who think that you must pick a pitcher in the first couple of rounds but I strongly disagree. In my view, you pick the best possible player unless a stud pitcher is available. It makes way more sense that if your pick is #28, you won't find a great pitcher but there will still be a lot of great position players available.

You can build a great team in a lot of different ways. You can pick a lot of great position players like the Cubs did and then go and sign stud pitchers who become free agents. You can go and be aggressive signing international players like the Cubs have done. That's how they built their team and won it all.

Add all the young players on the Cubs and you will end up with very little money. That being the case, you can now spend 100M building a good rotation by signing FA or trades. Or you can grab all the pitchers you can in the draft, hope they pan out and then go and spend 100M signing / trading for the Cespedes, Bruce, Granderson, Walker. Didn't you just end up with 150+M payroll either way?

But in my view, you end up picking a winner more times when you pick a position player than a pitcher late in the first round.

We can only envy what a good GM with a vision has done across town vs what a moneyball Genius GM with money has done in 7 years.

Smith, Rosario and maybe Cecchini and then crickets on the system.

Yeah F for me

Viper said...

You could not see what Turner would turn into but Murphy had given you a clear example of they type of hitter, player he was. When you knew that Duda would get hurt because he always does and when Wright's health was questionable, why wouldn't you sign a player who could pay both positions well? Murphy was the leader on the Mets and all you have to see is how the Nationals have taken off once Murphy arrived.

Who has been the better player these last 2 seasons? Murphy or Cespedes?

Adam Smith said...

If you look at Murphy's season in 2015, he was on the DL twice (I believe) and if you take out the four weeks or so that he was either playing hurt, or coming back off injury, his numbers look a lot like they have since. The fact is that he had already turned the corner from good hitter to great hitter before the Mets let him walk. And he added an exclamation point to that in the post season. Sandy, er al, apparently didn't notice.

Anonymous said...

The Wright contract hasn't worked out due to injuries and you can make the argument the Mets should have traded everyone and went full rebuild in 2011-2012, but Wright certainly wasn't coming off "terrible seasons" when he signed that contract. No such thing existed with David Wright then. And when he signed that contract he was coming off an elite level season: 141 wRC+, 7 WAR season - he was one of the best players in the game - certainly would have gotten more money on the open market had he waited to test FA (Cano had similar stats to DW and got 240 mil, Ellsbury was vastly inferior to Wright and got 150 mil). The only year Wright had to that point that wasn't all-star worthy was when he dealt with the broken back in 2011 - and even then he put up a pretty good 116 wRC+. The guy was a great player, and a contract with an average annual value of 17.25 was a bargain at the time. Unfortunately the stenosis happened and really killed his career, but he was an elite player when he signed that deal, so it wasn't crazy at the time to sign him

Reese Kaplan said...

@Anonynmous -- in 2012 he had a very good year, granted. However, in the previous years starting with 2009 -- 10 HRs and 72 RBIs -- hardly "elite". In 2010 he hit 29/103 -- back to his elite level. Then he dropped off again in 2011 to 14/61/.254. In 2012 he was 21/93/.306 - very good indeed. However, the Madoff situation was in full swing in 2011 and handcuffed the Mets from spending. Therefore it would have been far more prudent to sell high on David Wright, let another club pay him the $138 million and instead replenish the farm and have that $138 to fortify the franchise in other ways. THAT was simply a controllable, bad business decision. Then David Wright's health compounded the folly of the bad contract. I never said the Mets were stupid because of David Wright's health. That is the luck of the draw. They were telling people out of one side of their mouths that they had no money to spend but then chose to spend $138 on one man, putting all of their eggs into one very expensive basket. If they had traded him for younger, controllable talent AND had $138 million to spend in other ways, chances are they would have been more competitive during the subsequent years, but it's all water over the bridge now. However, at the time I recognized the economics which had nothing whatsoever to do with Wright's subsequent health issues.

Anonymous said...

@Reese I could not disagree more. You are vastly under valuing those seasons. You can't judge a player strictly based on HR and RBI.... HR are only one narrow dimension of hitting and RBI are heavily team dependent and Wright wasn't some one dimensional slugger whose only value was in HR. Wright's 2009 season the HRs were down, but he still hit a ton of doubles and posted an OBP near .400. His 2009 and 2010 consisted of wRC+ (the best measure of overall hitting worth) of 125 and 129....that is great. A bit down from some of his Shea years (but his 2012 was right on par with those Shea years) yet still great. 2011 was down due to injury, but certainly not terrible. And if you were actually paying him a contract to match the full value for those 2005-08 and 2012 years, it would have cost a lot more than the 17 mil per year. Had he not gotten hurt, and had multiple years like 2009 under the new contract, he would have easily been worth the contract. Easily. A player like that would fit perfectly on this team right now.

I don't really agree with the argument that they should have sold him off and gone full rebuild, but I at least understand that argument. Personally, I think the best way to win is to mix the young players with some great established veterans and Wright was more reasonably priced than any great player they'd have gotten on the market, and it was known he could handle NY, was a great clubhouse guy, etc. But I can at least =understand the mindset of - full rebuild, start over. No way is it accurate to say Wright's years pre that contract were "terrible" though. (and certainly if they were terrible you wouldnt get all these great prospects you speak of). The guy was a great player and the years preceding the contract were definitely worth the money he got. He was a 129 wRC+ player from 2009-2012....I would love to have more players on this team who could do that.

Thomas Brennan said...

Wright's plight reminds me of Anne Hathoway's line in Les Miserables..."and then it all went wrong"

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