Over the past several seasons, the Mets have gone through one of their toughest stretches in recent history. From the constant unnecessary trade rumors to the dangling of possible signings to the constant complaining of overly-invested fans, it has been a rough stretch. After the 2010 season, ownership went in a new (cheaper) direction that would include the firing of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel and the hiring of Sandy Alderson. Collins has been a failure in his own special way, but Alderson has gotten some unnecessary heat. Regardless, Sandy Alderson has kept his composure and has been able to make certain moves that would slide under the radar and yet still be hated by fans. Now let’s look at the offseason goals offseason by offseason and see if he accomplished them.
Offseason heading into 2011:
If memory serves me correctly, this was an offseason that was not exactly filled with blockbuster deals on the Mets part, but mostly filled with the beginning of a long-term plan to determine the problems and test out who stays and who goes.
1. Cut the AAAA players that flooded the roster for much of the season:
Alderson was able to rid the Mets of having to watch Luis Castillo, Chris Carter, Fernando Tatis, Henry Blanco, Luis Hernandez, and Mike Hessman getting any playing time whatsoever.
2. Figure out what to do with Carlos Beltran:
Beltran was just sort of left a mystery for the regular season to figure out.
3. Find a second basemen
Second base, of course, was an all-out battle during spring training which, in the end, would result in 42 dreadful plate appearances from Brad Emaus.
5. Get cheap bullpen options (this will become a trend)
As for the bullpen, this would be probably the most successful group of veterans brought in by Alderson. Jason Isringhausen taught Bobby Parnell the knuckle-curve that would finally secure Parnell’s spot in the bullpen, Taylor Buchholz was solid before leaving with personal issues which would start the Tim Byrdak era and bring in the somewhat solid Pedro Beato.
Offseason Grade: B-
Through the lack of hype surrounding the offseason, Alderson made some under-the-radar moves that would help shape the Mets into who they are today.
2011 Season Grade: C+
In what may be called the scrappiest offense in the history of Major League Baseball, they actually scored a ton of runs. The Dave Hudgens’ philosophy actually worked for once posting the most doubles and walks in the National League while finishing second in hits, batting average, and OBP, and third in triples and steals. However, the pitching was absolutely atrocious with Mike Pelfrey posting a terrible season, Dillon Gee tailing off in the second half, and R.A. Dickey having a down season of sorts. Overall, this team was the opposite of the team the Mets have now. If the 2011 Mets had the pitching of the 2014 Mets they could have won a wild-card spot and if the 2014 Mets had the 2011 offense they could have won the NL East.
Offseason heading into 2012:
Fresh off of another second half collapse and a fire sale that included the departures of Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez things were looking difficult in the front office.
1. Figure out if Johan Santana could actually return. If not, find rotation options
Most of the news surrounding the Mets was the debate of whether or not legend Santana could actually return. This was also followed by the questions surrounding the rest of the rotation: Who is the real Dickey? Can Pelfrey bounce back? What do the Mets have in Jon Niese? Is Dillon Gee legit? All these questions were obviously answered by season’s end, but at the time this was a pressing matter. In the end, Santana returned and the rotation was not upgraded.
2. Find mulitple fixes for the bullpen:
Alderson would once again dig to the bottom of the barrel and find the best value for relievers and he came up with two seemingly solid options to fix the backend of the pen: Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch.
4. Maybe, just maybe, retain Jose Reyes:
Reyes was not even considered by the Mets during this offseason, as he never received an offer.
What makes this offseason so memorable is what could be considered as the worst trade during Alderson’s tenure: Angel Pagan in exchange for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres. This trade actually made zero sense at the time; trading a player making fewer than $5 million for two players that were coming off down seasons. While Pagan did not have the best season in 2011, he was actually still producing at a reasonable level and could have put up another productive year. This trade was garbage at the time and still baffles me today.
Offseason grade: D-
Alderson did almost nothing to make this team better besides acquiring a few cheap bullpen and starting rotation options, one of which would haunt the Mets for two seasons. He made the worst trade of his tenure and basically risked the Mets only winning about 65 games with the rest of the division expecting great things. The only thing that keeps this offseason from a complete flop is his claiming of Jeremy Hefner (who could still become a somewhat valuable piece in the bullpen in 2015-2017).
Regular season grade: C-
The 2012 season was somewhat of a complete flop on many levels, but at the same time I still cannot help but smile just thinking about the first half. Many will admit, myself included, that they believed 2012 could be a season that included postseason baseball. After battling through a 46-39 start with an atrocious bullpen and shaky offense, many believed that, with the rest of the division somewhat faltering, a trade-deadline piece could propel the Mets to the playoffs. This of course did not happen as they would open the second-half 2-13 and completely stun the Mets’ universe. Of course the second half did include some positives: Ike Davis put everything together; Matt Harvey began his career; Jason Bay struggled enough to call for a release; Hairston popped 20 homeruns; and, of course, Dickey finished off a Cy Young campaign. A season that could have been extremely special, but instead was another punch in the gut for fans.
Off-season heading in 2013
1. Lock-up/trade either David Wright or Dickey:
This was a pivotal offseason for Alderson as he attempted to lock-up or trade the only two stars of the team. In the end, he made a trade that may be looked at 10+ years from now as one of the best trades in franchise history. Trading an aged ace and two overvalued catchers for a future ace, a budding all-star catcher, a veteran catcher who was important to the confidence of Harvey, and raw outfield prospect is truly spectacular. In addition, he locked up the face of the franchise for eight years– which is a discussion for another time.
3. Find an answer to the question, “What outfield?”
Alderson cut ties with a miserable Jason Bay and did little to find upgrades over the infamous “What outfield?” trio. Only Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill were really brought in to improve the positions and it seemed at the time that Alderson had completely failed in upgrading this miserable component of the team.
4. Sign one more starting pitcher:
Shaun Marcum was signed to a one-year contract that was only used as insurance in case Zack Wheeler wasn’t ready in time. He was most famous for his inability to win a start, and his most impressive outing came in eight shutout relief innings.
5. Someone, anyone, for the bullpen:
While the Mets bullpen in 2013 was nothing special, it almost resembled the 2011 bullpen in that Alderson had brought in veterans to help out some of the younger pitchers. LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, Greg Burke, and Brandon Lyon were the ones that headlined the show.
Offseason grade: B-
Other than the actual duo of deals that included the stars, the offseason was not very successful. The surprises Alderson experienced made him quite lucky. Through all of that, this was probably a failed offseason without the big deals, but the deals are enough to potentially shape the franchise for a decade in a positive way.
Regular season grade: D-
The 2013 regular season was very painful to watch and only had a couple of bright spots. The notable ones were: the breakout of Harvey, the resurgence of Byrd, and the surprise of Juan Lagares. Other than these performances, 2013 was nothing of which to be proud.
Offseason heading into 2014:
This was the offseason that was originally planned to be recognized as spending and turning the organization into a postseason-bound team. The reality just turned into more disappointment.
1. Find 1-2 big outfield bats to complement Wright
While the actual success on these signings could be debated, Alderson got the job done by signing a couple of cheaper options for the outfield. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young were both fresh off down seasons, but were acquired at lower prices than they could have received 2-3 years prior. While they did not exactly work out, the other options for the positions (i.e. Shin-Soo Choo) were actually worse. In this regard, Alderson did his job.
2. Sign a durable veteran starter to fill in for Harvey
Within a week, two big priorities were filled by the signings of Granderson and Barolo Colon. These seemed like a solid ones with the only downfall being a two-year deal.
3. Acquire a couple of cheap veteran options for the bullpen
Late in the offseason, Alderson made an attempt to find a veteran presence in the bullpen with the additions of Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth and Daisuke Matsuzaka. While these deals did not work out in the end, they seemed solid at the time.
4. Upgrade the shortstop position
Much to the dismay of Mets fans absolutely nothing was done to improve the atrocity of shortstop. Ruben Tejada was slated to start the whole season as there were only a few whispers of Wilmer Flores taking over the position.
5. Figure out who actually is on first
This was another problem that was not actually solved by opening day because the underwhelming duo of Lucas Duda and Davis were still shoved into the position.
Offseason grade: B-
Alderson had numerous priorities heading into last offseason and only a few were actually solved. The shortstop position was left a mystery and first base wasn’t solved until late April. That being said, the ones that were solved actually seemed positive at the time and put the Mets in the position to win at least 80 games.
Regular season grade: B
There is no question the Mets were an embarrassing disappointment in 2014, but looking at the positives over the negatives one can see enormous growth. The bullpen flipped from the worst in the majors into 8th best and 4th best in the National League (even ahead of the Braves). We fans got to watch the development and breakout of multiple players; Juan Lagares, d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Duda, Jeurys Familia, and Jenrry Mejia to name a few. In addition, Alderson should be able to weed out the players unworthy of playing in New York and replace them with MLB quality players. While there were failures, this was a team that scored more runs than they gave up.