Sandy Alderson: GM or Caretaker?

So, are the Mets expecting to contend for a playoff spot this year? I can’t fathom why they’d hold on to pieces like Tim Byrdak, Scott Hairston and Chris Young if they thought otherwise. We heard from one source that Sandy Alderson “monitored” the list of available players, while another source claimed he “had his finger on the pulse” of the trade market.

So what is he, a civil war ironclad? Or a physician’s assistant? He certainly isn’t acting like a GM. In actuality, he and his three brainy helpers (DePodesta, Ricco and Ricciardi) seem to be little more than caretakers for the increasingly moribund Wilpon Estate. Managing the day-to-day operations with a petty cash fund appears to be all that they can do (or are entrusted with).

I was not expecting Alderson to spin Byrdak, Hairston or Young into a top prospect, the way he did with the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal last year. Nor did I want a swap for AAAA filler that would only clog up 40-man roster spots. I accept the fact that no one wants Jason Bay and I am opposed to moving Daniel Murphy or Ike Davis for middle-inning relief help.

What I was hoping for was a little creativity: a bundle of say Hairston and Young for one or two B/B+ prospects. In this way, something is built from nothing. Hairston, Young and Byrdak all signed as Free Agents and didn’t cost the Mets anything in terms of players or draft picks. By dealing them, Alderson could have added a little fuel to his bargaining power; building depth for the deals he will inevitably have to make to improve the 25-man roster. This may be derided in some circles as “small market philosophy,” because the Kansas City Royals do it, but it has also been effective in building winning teams in places like Minnesota, Oakland, San Francisco and Washington. You may recall circa 1998-2000 and Steve Phillips being unable to acquire either Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, mainly because he had already drained the cupboard bare in acquiring Al Leiter and Mike Piazza and didn’t have the equivalent of an a Carl Pavano or an Omar Daal left in prospects that Boston and Arizona respectively, had to offer.

Then there is the entertainment factor. Player moves are an important part of baseball’s appeal. Fans eat up trades and rumors of trades. Trade talk sells papers and builds traffic on websites. To stand pat during the trade deadline while your team is floundering only serves to further diminish the allure of your product. This comes after a winter of inactivity and the very likely prospect of another uneventful off-season ahead. Teams can get a lot of mileage out of deals and not just in terms of player production. Trades generate some free publicity and (sometimes) improved ticket sales. A move or two would have served as a gesture of goodwill to a discouraged and frustrated fan base that the front office feels the same way and is finally willing to do more than just talk about it. For a team having a poor season like the Mets are, the July trade deadline deals can offer a topic-changer and possibly keeps them from dropping entirely off the radar screen after football camps open.

Instead, the club is clinging stubbornly to the status quo: the final third of the 2012 Mets’ season will be done playing out the string with a mixture of semi-prospects trying to establish themselves as Major Leaguers, a few star players looking for an exit and some marginal veterans as roster filler. Meanwhile they will continue to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Yes we are building for the future and no; we aren’t giving up on this season. So please buy tickets and merchandise. In reality they aren’t doing much of either. (But they do want you to spend your money). If they planned on contending, why didn’t they add a piece or two? If they are playing for 2013 and beyond, why not move some vets for chips?
This has become distressingly familiar ground for us. I had hoped that the arrival of Alderson and his associates meant the dawn of a new age for the Mets. Instead, it’s Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. murph July 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm
    So the Mets were neither buyers nor sellers during the trading deadline.
    In Alderson’s defense, I suspect that nobody wanted what the Mets have to offer (Young, Byrdak, Bay), or offered too little (Hairston, Murphy).
    However, the bottom line is that they did nothing to improve the team either this year or for 2013.
  2. Reese July 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm
    What will be even more galling than the inertia is if they keep trotting out Bay, Torres and Hairston in the OF since they don’t likely have a future here. Bay is shot, Torres is not worth $3 million and Hairston will be too pricey next year based upon his power output this year. Now is the time to see what Valdespin, Baxter, Duda and/or Nieuwenhuis can do. The latter two need to get on a bit of a confidence building hot streak but then they should be back up here but they can’t. They’re blocked by Bay, Torres and Hairston.
  3. Tommy2cat July 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm
    Dan – Perhaps the best analysis of today’s non-events in the print media/blogosphere.

    I was relieved that the Mets didn’t consider themselves buyers at the trading deadline. I was not concerned that Sandy would jettison Kazmir/Isringhausen type talent for a short term benefit, but it was nice to know the issue was foreclosed by the teams lackluster performance over the past 3 weeks.

    However, I agree that he could have bundled someone such as Chris Young with, say, Familia &/or Mejia for a team with pitching needs that has a legitimate catching or outfield prospect . Just as an example, and I have not checked on the stats of these prospects, but I would have like to have seen us make a move on the Blue Jays Nick Marisnick or Giants Gary Brown. It would’ve been kind of amusing had we moved Hairston to the Giants for Brown when the former’s trade value had just peaked.

    On the other hand, it is difficult to know precisely the variables that affected Sandy at the trade deadline, not the least of which is the Wilpon agenda.

    In all, I’m glad Sandy didn’t do something stupid, but it would’ve been great had he done something smart.

  4. friend July 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    It has been a recurring theme in the past, played out in a few different variations, that playing at .500 is considered successful. Therefore, recent inaction resulted from not wanting to tinker with success.
  5. DaveSchneck July 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm
    Alderson has had his questionable actions and statements as Mets GM, but in this instance I must agree with his actions and statements 100%. The team went into freefall, mostly driven by a collapse of Santana, Dickey coming back to earth, the offense declining, and some blown saves. In reality, he could only have addressed the blown saves, and the price vs. return was too high. I agree with him that, even though this is NY, it is very important for the Mets to finish strong and exceed .500, even if it is merely to secure 3rd place in the NL East. This is possible, and a “mini-run” is still possible if FF and Santana return and contribute. They do not need another A ball longshot prospect, they have these guys already. Hairston quite possibly could be a bench piece next year. Wins, performance, and finishing for the remaining games matter greatly to the franchise and the plans for 2013.
    • Joe Janish July 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm
      But Dave, this freefall occurred in part because Alderson didn’t make a move when the Mets were riding high and had obvious holes to fill — i.e., before the All Star break.

      It was as if Alderson was waiting for the team to fail, so he would be justified in not making a move.

      With the Fish and Phils waving the white flag, the Mets are guaranteed a 3rd-place finish. They’d have to field 8 players every game to screw that up.

      • DaveSchneck August 1, 2012 at 10:13 am
        Agreed and early July acquisition of a quality bullpen arm could have reduced the slide.
        Agreed that I am skeptical about the Mets’ and Alderson’s continuation of double speak – see Reyes offer, Harvey being ready, deadline buyers, etc.
        Agreed it is another disappointing year and disappointing trade dealing.
        What I am saying is that this comes down to knowing what was actually offered to Alderson, and since we don;t, trusting his statements about the market. I don’t think it was worth trading Hairston for a 10 thru 15 prospect because IMHO I think it is important for this franchise to have a winning record this year as a way to display some improvement and upward trajectory to its fans, potential FAs, and DW, if they intend on keeping him, and that has more value that a #16 prospect on the Met depth charts. Could be wrong, but either way this is peripheral to the real deal, how much $$$ they will spend on the 2013 team, as there are way too many holes to fill from within or with a $90 mil payroll.
      • bca August 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm
        I agree with doing something while they were doing well but at what cost? The only pieces i would have dealt would have been a Hairsten, Young, and even a Murphy. Not any of their top farm talent. No way. Plus was there anything out there? I don’t think so at a reasonble price. These other clown GM’s just wanted to take advantage of the Mets. There were no good deals to be had.
    • Joe Janish July 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm
      BTW, Dan, this may be the best post on MetsToday in all of 2012. Well done.
    • DYLAN July 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm
      I agree with Dave that it is important for the Mets to finish above .500 if they can this year…I keep hearing rebuilding, rebuilding…what are you guys talking about? After watching this team in the first half, I feel like it’s time to do some winning. If they finish above .500 this year, then no reason to think next year with some additions, they won’t be ready to contend, and the following year as their young pieces mature, really become a contender.

      The one thing I don’t get is why Alderson did NOTHING as far as relief goes, even something symbolic would have helped the morale and probably saved a game or two from the collapse, leaving the team in better position to finish close to the Wild Card.

      I am NOT buying this buyer vs. seller claptrap though. It’s not that simple. Doing nothing is also an option if you think your team might be ready next season to really be in it.

  6. Dan B July 31, 2012 at 10:44 pm
    Why do we need a 3rd place finish? How does being .500 help us? I want championships. You need to act like you are building a championship team, not a .500 team. If you like Hairston so much, trade him and resign him as a free agent. Another single A longshot for free is better then not having one. Or package Hairston and one of our single A longshots which I guess we have a lot of and get a double A not so longshot. Act like you want to piece together a championship team and stop acting like you trying to pad attendence revenue with a mediocre team. I am glad we didn’t act like buyers, also. But keeping players who are gone at the end of the season (see Reyes, see Hairston this off season) and getting little or nothing is not a plan.
    • DYLAN July 31, 2012 at 11:35 pm
      How often do teams go from worst to first? A third place finish can be a good thing when you’ve been last for a few years. Geesh, is that hard to understand?

      In 2005 they finished above .500 and it set up a successful 2006. I don’t see why you would think building a habit success is a bad thing.

      • HobieLandrith August 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm
        Hmm … I seem to remember a team based in Queens that finished 8th in 1968 and were World Champions in 1969. I think they wore orange and blue.

        Something similar happened in Florida — in both Tampa and Miami.

  7. NormE August 1, 2012 at 1:23 am
    In the long run, finishing third doesn’t mean much. But, as a fan it would be nice to beat out the Marlins and the Phillies.

    The important thing is building for next year and beyond, so I agree that Hairston should have been traded as a rent-a-player. Dan’s correct, and the same about Young and Byrdak.

    Heck, you could include Cedeno, Torres, Rauch and just about every other suspect over thirty, though you might not get too many takers.

  8. Steven August 1, 2012 at 2:49 am
    We have no idea if sandy was offered anything better than a herrera type for hairston. I’d rather have a 83 win season to build on for next year than a move which may put us in contention for last place
  9. MikeT August 1, 2012 at 10:31 am
    Two things: If he trades Hairston or Byrdak (a guy not many wanted because of over use, fyi) and we end up with Cris Carter again, what did we accomplish? Wagner for Carter (plus Eddie Lora) was bad for reasons beyond player return because Wagner would have netted draft picks, but the return is comparable to what we would expect for Hairston and Byrdak COMBINED. So, getting roster filler for guys helping you win now is silly and not productive. The extra couple of wins they bring now help make your product watchable. Don’t underscore this, as every fanny in the seat in August/September means more money to spend next year.

    The other point I want to make is that this year is more akin to 1972/1984/1998/2005 Mets teams than other years where the team does not make the playoffs. These teams were all on the verge of something. At the very least, this team should strive to be that. As in 1884, they did not make it all the way the following year, but the team was clearly on to something. I think if the Mets finish in 3rd and are at .500 +/- 1 win we should be very optimistic and consider the year a success. If they made the mistake of 2004 and trade a useful piece in the wrong year, then none of this is worth it.

    Simply stated: Sandy did not get the right deal, and he’s smart enough to recognize that. Trades for the sake of trades is asinine and irresponsible.

    • HobieLandrith August 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm
      Um … just one problem with your theory — this Mets team is nowhere near being “on the verge” of anything. It’s more like any of the teams from the early 1990s than 05/98/85/72. Those teams were a piece or two away from contending, and this team is a piece or two away from last place.
      • MikeT August 2, 2012 at 9:59 am
        That’s your opinion man, and thinking about this year, with good pitching you can go far. A bullpen is one of the easiest things to construct (look at how the Rays rebuild it every year) and the Mets have two young pitchers on the horizon (Wheeler, Harvey) that can be difference makers. Bay will be gone by next year and someone will be brought in to play the outfield and provide help there. This team is not as far away as it seems. Next year is probably not a playoff year, but it will be close. This year might be more of a 1997 or 2004 year in that we can see how they can be good, it just needs more time.
        • Joe Janish August 2, 2012 at 10:45 am
          I’m with Hobie on this one. If you believe in the theory that championship teams are strong up the middle, well, I don’t see any strength in C, 2B, or CF. But Tejada is looking good, so they’re only 3 pieces away. Of course, the outfield corners are below average as well, so those are more pieces to find. If you believe that pitching wins championships, well, the Mets have RA Dickey and little else. Niese is a solid middle-rotation guy. We don’t know what will happen with Gee nor Santana. Harvey is promising but no sure thing, and neither is Wheeler. If the bullpen is so “easy” to construct then why couldn’t a smart group of Ivy League front office personnel put together one that is even halfway decent? Either it’s not that easy or the front office is not that smart — pick your poison.

          On the field, the Mets have David Wright, Ike Davis, and Ruben Tejada, and 5 question marks. On the mound, they have maybe 3 or 4 arms that can be counted on to fill a role in 2013. That leaves a LOT of fixing / wishing / hoping.

  10. Dave Mittman, PA, DFAAPA August 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm
    Dan: I am a rabid Met fan and agree fully. Truly and fully. We should have sold or bought. Something….

    I have a question. I am a physician associate/assistant (PA).
    What did you mean by the comment. Don’t be defensive, I’d like the truth. I know our profession has a PR problem and I’d honestly like to know what you meant. The national PA association says all is OK and many of us do not agree, so what was the reference to?

    • dancapwell August 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm
      Dave Mittman:

      Sorry no offense meant. My wife had brain anyeurysm surgery (successful) this winter and I have gained a new appreciation for the entire medical profession. Keep up the good work.

      I felt that the comment about Sandy having his finger on the pulse of the trade market was ridiculous and sounded very dated. That’s why the PA and the civil war ironclad (google the word “monitor”) comments.

  11. anthony August 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm
    i find this mets management very perplexing. i have followed aldersons comments closely since his hiring. i admitt i was happy initially. as time has gone on though i dont see any brilliance or imagination in his moves. that leaves me thinking that ownership has a big hand in what he is able to do. i believe the problem starts at the top. bud seligs relationship with the wilpons i think ultimately hurt the organizations ability to get back on its feet. i look at the dodgers as a classic example of what could have been. they now have new hope, and the mets dont.