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 18

Wilmer Flores Could Be Viable Shortstop Option

The New York Mets have long touted Wilmer Flores as one of their future stars. To some degree, having Flores and Ruben Tejada made it easier to let Jose Reyes walk.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

With Tejada coming off a bad year and striking out in the free-agent shortstop market, the Mets are considering giving Flores another chance at shortstop.

And, it’s a good idea.

The Mets drafted Flores as a shortstop, but moved him to other positions because he lacked the quickness in making the first step.

Even so, manager Terry Collins suggested at the Winter Meetings Flores might get a look at shortstop in spring training. Collins reiterated that intent after Flores’ success at a Michigan fitness camp, where he dramatically improved his quickness and speed.

With his quickness and speed improved, it makes sense to experiment with Flores. Shortstops don’t need speed. Cal Ripken wasn’t fast, but relied on quickness and positioning.

It could be the same for Flores, who suffered with ankle injuries last year.

“We did a lot of ankle exercises,’’ Flores told reporters about his work at the fitness camp. “We worked on things that we needed to work on, like speed, agility and getting stronger. I’d be happy to go again.’’

Flores played shortstop for four years in the minors, and is willing to try again.

“It’s not going to be a new position,’’ Flores said. “I’m sure I can play.’’

That confidence and Collins’ willingness to experiment are no guarantees Flores can play shortstop on the major league level.

Because the Mets are giving Tejada every chance to redeem himself, he’ll get most of the time at shortstop during spring training. The remaining time Flores gets won’t be nearly enough to show he can play the position.

However, Flores has greater offensive potential than Tejada, thereby giving the Mets a dilemma. Because the Mets need offense, it’s possible Flores could make the Opening Day roster as a role player off the bench.

Assuming Flores makes the team, he probably won’t play enough, certainly at shortstop, to make a substantial impact.

What then, is the best option?

The Mets’ options are to carry Flores as a bench player or to send him back to Triple-A. If it is the latter, it must be under the provision he only plays shortstop, and not second, third or first.

Collins suggested as much today.

“I think with what we have on the infield – you know what? – if he’s not going to get a lot of a playing time, he’s got to go play at his age,” Collins said. “Because the ceiling on his bat is too high. He’s got to go get at-bats.”

Flores needs to learn to play shortstop, and that takes repetitions. Lots of them.

Feb 16

Good Sign; Ruben Tejada Reports Early

One of the New York Mets on the hot seat is shortstop Ruben Tejada, who got into manager Terry Collins’ doghouse for not reporting early two years ago, his first replacing Jose Reyes.

He appears to have gotten the message, with proof being showing up to spring training Sunday, almost a week ahead of schedule.

TEJADA: In camp early.

TEJADA: In camp early.

Technically, he reported on time two years ago, but Collins’ way of thinking was in Tejada’s first year as starter he should have shown initiative and reported early.

Tejada redeemed himself by hitting .289 in 2012, but didn’t report in peak shape last spring and his work ethic was brought into question. Tejada got off to a miserable start both at the plate and in the field, was injured and optioned.

He struggled when he returned and ended the season with a fractured leg and seemingly out of the Mets’ plans.

However, when the shortstop market – Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew – became too pricey, the Mets thought they’d give Tejada another chance.

Other than the market, what moved the Mets toward a Tejada encore was his commitment in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan.

Tejada’s presence in Ann Arbor, and reporting early is a good sign.

Feb 11

Mets Should Quit Charade And Just Say No To Stephen Drew

Sandy Alderson said this afternoon the New York Mets have the money to sign shortstop Stephen Drew “under the right circumstances.’’

An opt-out after one year is not one of those circumstances. Neither is Drew’s reported asking price of $15 million for a career .264 hitter. I don’t care how good his glove he flashes.

DREW: Not a good choice.

DREW: Not a good choice.

In addition to his contractual demands, there are other reasons why Alderson shouldn’t feed the speculation.

Just say, “No, we don’t have an interest in Drew.’’ He can always change his mind if something happens to Ruben Tejada.

Alderson said he’s happy with Tejada’s off-season commitment to getting in shape by attending a fitness camp in Michigan.

Two years ago Tejada had a good season in the first year without Jose Reyes. Now, Tejada might never equal Reyes’ offensive potential, but his .289 average and .333 on-base percentage in 2012, certainly is good enough to believe there’s a chance for more.

The Mets soured on Tejada because of his attitude and performance last year, which ended with him fracturing his leg. Alderson said upgrading shortstop was an off-season priority, but the prices for Drew and Jhonny Peralta excessive.

Although Alderson said Drew was affordable, it doesn’t make him a wise purchase, especially for a team on the build. Teams not expected to win don’t invest that kind of money on an average hitting shortstop. They do if he’s the missing piece, but the Mets need more than a few pieces.

The Mets are pointing to 2015, and Drew would be gone by then if they give him the opt-out.

If 2014 is simply a transition year, the Mets are better off giving Tejada this season and finding out what they have in him – after all, he’s 24 and Drew is 30.

The Mets can build around Tejada. As their roster is currently comprised, they can’t build around Drew.

Save the money for something else, perhaps for a missing piece at the trade deadline if this season exceeds all expectations.

 

Dec 27

Hopefully, The Final Word About Carlos Beltran

Now that I am back, it is time to catch up on several matters with the New York Mets. The most important is Carlos Beltran’s shot across the Mets’ bow after he signed with the Yankees.

Was he entitled? Yes. Did the Mets deserve some of the criticism? Yes, but not all. Beltran needs to look in the mirror, too. Wonder why he felt the need to take a shot when he had numerous opportunities over the years.

BELTRAN; Took shot at Mets.

BELTRAN: Took shot at Mets.

We heard Jeff Wilpon and Beltran mended fences at the All-Star Game, and later Beltran said he was open to a Flushing return. Evidently, that wasn’t the case.

Don’t blame Beltran for saying he would consider it because he was playing the market, and as any smart future free agent, you don’t slam doors early in the process. In the end, we know the Mets would never have given Beltran the kind of deal he received from the Yankees. Forty-five million over three years. Never would have happened.

I’ve always liked Beltran and it would have been fun to see him go out a Met, but it wasn’t to be. Honestly, if sentimentality had anything to do with it, he should have gone full circle and returned to Kansas City.

At his introductory press conference with the Yankees – we all knew that’s where he would go – Beltran filled in a lot of pieces, but to a point.

Beltran said he was still upset when the Mets singled him out for missing an appearance at the Walter Reed Medical Center, when the team was in Washington. It is an annual gesture by the Mets when in Washington, something that doesn’t take the team by surprise – including Beltran.

Why it was never known until after the visit Beltran was in Puerto Rico working with one of his charities is open to speculation. Somebody had to know Beltran would not be there, and if nothing else he should have said something earlier to avoid an issue.

We can write this off as a miscommunication, but can we really? If Beltran was jumping the trip somebody had to have known. Then general manager Omar Minaya? Jeff or Fred Wilpon? Why didn’t Beltran say, `this is who gave me permission to go?’

Seems like enough was done by both parties to create confusion.

However, Beltran is absolutely correct when he says the Mets mishandled his knee problems, from keeping him on the disabled list too long, so they could see him play meaningless games in September, to the surgery itself.

This delayed surgery, which he had on his own, and his subsequent return to the team. Blame the team for that.

But, let’s hear some names, please. Who did you wrong? Minaya or Wilpon?

“All the controversy about the Walter Reed,’’ Beltran said. “The knee — the organization trying to put me as a player that was a bad apple. I was this, I was that. I can deal with 0-for-4 and three strikeouts and talk to you guys.

“But when someone is trying to hurt you in a very personal way, trying to put things out there … then we got trouble. Now, it’s personal.

“When they say all that about myself, I was hurt. You cannot believe the organization that signed you for seven years is trying to put you down. In that aspect, I felt hurt.’’

There, he said it. I wish it had come out sooner and Beltran would have done more in the matter of finger pointing.

However, before we get all weepy for Beltran finally getting a chance to play with the Yankees, always remember he had his opportunity. After the Mets gave him his last contract offer, Beltran went back to the Yankees for a discounted proposal. Seemed he didn’t really want to go to the Mets.

So, obviously, it was more about the money with Beltran regarding the Mets. Had he taken less to go with the Yankees, he would have played in at least one World Series with them – that being the one they won in 2009.

For whatever reason, Beltran was never beloved as a Met. His quiet demeanor was a contributing factor. But, we must remember, he played with a fractured face in 2005. He played through numerous injuries, and he played hard.

That should never be taken away from him. He was beaten up during that time by the fan base, and he received little support from his teammates and management.

There’s something about Beltran’s demeanor that flies under the radar. He was not a vocal presence in the clubhouse, and because of it, Jose Reyes was influenced by Carlos Delgado, who did not respect then manager Willie Randolph.

Yes, Walter Reed was a mess, but a preventable one by both parties. Yes, the knee issue was a disaster, with most of the blame directed at the Mets. Yes, if Beltran hurt then he should have made it vocal.

I was sorry to hear Beltran’s scorched-earth feelings about the Mets. However, it was weighing on him, but it should have come out sooner.

But, Beltran had plenty of time earlier to vent. I wish he hadn’t because it solved nothing and opened old wounds. It cast a black cloud over things, including how he should be remembered as a Met – which is as a marvelous player who gave his best. It also gave us a heads-up for the Subway Series.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos