Feb 19

Judging Sandy Alderson’s Tenure With Mets

Sandy Alderson said he’d like to stay on as general manager of the New York Mets for another two or three years.

In judging Alderson’s first three years, we must first understand why he was hired, and it wasn’t to build a winning team – at least not initially.

Alderson might have had the Mets in the playoffs had he thrown good money after bad, as the franchise was doing since the end of the 2007 season when they bid against themselves to sign Johan Santana.

ALDERSON: How would you judge Alderson?

ALDERSON: How would you judge Alderson?

Alderson’s objective was to put the Mets in position to win by changing their economic structure, which meant first stripping the team of its cumbersome, unproductive contracts.

It began by getting out from under the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, which meant eating salary, but counteracting that by not bringing in more payroll.

Next Francisco Rodriguez had to go, which happened in a trade to Milwaukee. Then Alderson had to buy out Jason Bay and wait for Santana’s contract to expire.

With over $75 million off the books and the Wilpons getting a favorable ruling in the Madoff scandal, Alderson could slowly rebuild the Mets.

There are three ways to build a team: trades, free agency and the draft. Let’s look at how Alderson has fared in these categories.

TRADES:  Alderson has completed four significant trades with the Mets, beginning with sending Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee in 2011 for pitching prospects Adrian Rosario and Danny Herrera. Neither prospect has amounted to much, but the key was getting out from under Rodriguez’s contract, which would have been $17.5 million in 2012 or a $3.5 million buyout.

The Mets tired of Rodriguez’s high-wire act on the mound and explosive personality off the field, which included assaulting his fiancé and her father, the latter inside Citi Field.

Alderson’s second big trade was to obtain pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran, which saved the Mets an $18.5 million option on the outfielder.

Beltran remains a productive player, but Wheeler is a key to the Mets’ pitching foundation.

Next, Alderson sent 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, whom the Mets wouldn’t be able to afford to re-sign, and catcher Josh Thole to Toronto for catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and catcher John Buck.

Finally, after a productive first half of the 2013 season, Buck was traded to Pittsburgh for reliever Vic Black and second base prospect Dilson Herrera.

So, at the cost of three players whom the Mets would not, or did not, want to keep, they obtained Wheeler, d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Black and Herrera, all of whom represent inexpensive building blocks.

On the negative side, Alderson has not been able to resolve the first base logjam by trading Ike Davis. There could still be time as reportedly Baltimore and Pittsburgh are still monitoring the Mets in the possibility of making a trade.

It also must be remembered it has been difficult for the Mets to trade because they want to keep their young pitching and have few other chips to deal.

FREE-AGENCY: Unquestionably, Alderson’s biggest decision was to bring back captain and centerpiece, All-Star third baseman David Wright to an eight-year, $138-million extension last winter.

His other key decision was to not bring back Jose Reyes, which was a good move in that it gave them the latitude to keep Wright. Also, Reyes is a speed player with a history of leg injuries making the likelihood of him breaking down very real.

Alderson also signed Byrd, which he parlayed into prospects, and outfielder Chris Young, which is not a popular decision.

He also spent this offseason on Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon. The outcome of those two remain to be seen.

Alderson receives criticism for the signings he did not make, such as Bronson Arroyo. Some of it is fair if one is looking at the short term. When looking at the long term it isn’t because it doesn’t take into account his initial plan, which was to restructure the Mets economically and then build them up.

However, signing reliever Frank Francisco to a two-year contract was a bust.

It can also be argued by offering Davis arbitration when they really don’t want him was a mistake. However, that can be erased if Davis is eventually traded.

DRAFTING: Matt Harvey, by the way, was drafted by Omar Minaya’s regime. It is too soon to make a call on prospects pitcher Rafael Montero, who could come up this season, outfielder Brandon Nimmo and catcher Kevin Plawkecki.

Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said the organization’s biggest weakness is a lack of position-player prospects in the minor leagues.

Conclusion: Alderson was hired not to make the Mets immediately competitive, but to put them in position to compete within four years. That timetable was pushed back because of Harvey’s injury.

His first priority was to strip the Mets of non-productive payroll, which he accomplished. Ownership likes him, so if he wants to stay he will stay.

ON DECK: The market remains open for Ike Davis.

Feb 17

Mets’ Matt Harvey Doesn’t Regret Surgery Option

Matt Harvey doesn’t give in easily, but finally admitted he won’t be a part of the 2014 New York Mets as anything but a footnote.

Harvey, who recently said he wanted to pitch this season if his rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete by September, caved in Sunday and acknowledged it to be a long shot. Perhaps that his locker isn’t on `Starters Row,’ but close to the training room might have been the deciding factor.

HARVEY: Won't be an easy spring.

HARVEY: Won’t be an easy spring.

“It’s a little bit difficult of a day considering I’m starting to realize that the year is not going to go the way I wanted it to,’’ Harvey told reporters in Port St. Lucie Sunday. “But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and the rehab is going to continue. I’m not sure when I’m going to start throwing, but hopefully in the near future.

“It’s hard seeing all the guys, seeing them put their uniforms on, and realizing that spring training is going to go a little differently this year.’’

It had to be tough emotionally for him considering the high he rode last season until injuring his elbow. He had New York in the palm of his hand, but couldn’t ignore the nagging pain in his forearm and elbow.

Initially, Harvey wanted to choose rest over surgery, but finally relented. He said he’s finally at peace with the decision.

“I needed that time to make the decision and make sure that it was the right one and the one that I wanted to go with,’’ Harvey said. “I’m happy that I did things on my own time. Mentally moving forward I think that was a big thing for me to do.’’

As of now, Harvey will miss 2014. Had he opted for rest he might have been ready, but if he later blew out his elbow he would have missed the remainder of 2014 plus 2015. Considering those options, Harvey opted to miss the least amount of time as possible.

Mets physicians will soon meet with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, to map out a timetable for his rehab this season and this throwing program.

“Whenever they decide I can throw, that’s their decision. I can only make sure I’m strong and flexible,’’ Harvey said. “It’s definitely tough, but I’ve come to the realization that I have to listen to them and I can’t push too much.’’

That rushing sound you hear is a sigh of relief from Mets’ management.

Harvey is a competitor with no quit. Maybe he needed this experience to understand the fragility of his career and better take care of his arm.

ON DECK: Jenrry Mejia on bullpen shuttle again?

Feb 17

A Look At A Spring Training Day; On Tap For Today

The New York Mets are holding their first workouts of spring training today and could be coming off the field shortly. After all, with just pitchers and catchers, there’s not much you can do.

The pitchers are divided into two groups, with one throwing today and another tomorrow. There could be a few pitching fielding drills, but not much else, certainly not throwing to hitters.

The position players in camp will be throwing outside, but full-scale fielding drills won’t take place until later in the week. The Mets have enclosed batting cages and are hitting off tees and pitching machines. There could be batting practice from coaches, but not off any of the other pitchers.

While most position players on the major league level are already in camp, they don’t have to be in Port St. Lucie until Feb. 20, with physicals the following day.

The first full-squad workouts won’t take place until next weekend and the exhibition schedule starts Feb. 28. Until then, the days begin early with meetings, fielding drills – including pitchers – base running drills, and plenty of batting practice.

The days break up in the early afternoon, with the players spending time on the golf course or with their families.

A spring training camp is highly organized, with every player knowing where he’s supposed to be at any of the Mets’ over half-dozen fields.

Today I’ll have the following:

* Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon from a MLB.com report on several of the club’s key financial issues.

* Matt Harvey finally acknowledging he won’t pitch this year.

* Curtis Granderson on what he brings to the Mets.

* A wrap of today’s events.

 

Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

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