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’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.