Sandy Alderson, perceptions, and an inconsistent message

New York Mets Spring TrainingSandy Alderson recently spoke with the media for the first time since it was revealed he had a form of cancer and had some very interesting things to say. As usual, and depending on your current mood with team, some of those things were a bit provocative in nature. It’s likely that Alderson doesn’t mean to incite any kind of negative reaction with his comments and that these are simply genuine answers from a man who is incredibly calculative with both his words and actions. Still, his comments sometimes have a tendency to stir the Mets masses with how tone-deaf they appear to be on the surface.

Case in point, when talking about adding impactful players Alderson had this to say about finding the right player and not “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole:”

“For two months or three months it may make sense. For five years, six years, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to do that. If we had the right healthy player in the right position, it might be a different story for us. This isn’t about inching up on team improvement. This is trying to be more thoughtful about it, but also realistic.”

This is clearly in reference to a player like Yoenis Cespedes, a player many fans and media-types still think the Mets should sign to bolster the middle of their lineup. In fact, he correlates the team’s perceived lack of overall spending with the team specifically not signing Cespedes to a large contract.
This appears disingenuous for three reasons.

First, Mets fans have watched the team shove players out of position many, many times recently. Most notably, we’ve watched Daniel Murphy play out of position for more than half a decade. Second, most of those who would like to see the Mets retain Cespedes have no delusions that he’s worth a five year contract or that the Mets should sign him for that long. Finally, Curtis Granderson‘s contract is up in two years and it’s highly unlikely the team would resign him, thereby sliding Cespedes to one of the corners when there’s a likelihood that his defense in center goes from pretty bad to potentially disastrous. Additionally, and according to the Post’s Mike Puma, “industry sources” have stated that the Mets have “left the door open a crack for Cespedes’ return.”

This indicates that the team sees the value he would provide on the right deal. Again, inconsistent with the “square peg round hole narrative.” Just tell it like it is: if his price comes down of course we’d like to bring him back regardless of compromising an up-the-middle defense we’ve clearly not prioritized with most of our moves.

In defense of accusations that the Mets are not spending like many feel a team in their market should, he cites the fact that the team’s payroll has gone up since 2014. That’s literally true, but we need to keep the context in mind. He notes that the payroll in 2014 was at $85 million and will be somewhere between $115 million and $120 million in 2016. “That is a $35 million increase in just two years,” he said.

The Mets’ 2014 payroll was seen as a low point and they were summarily blasted for having such a low payroll even after adding the salaries of Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Chris Young. That 2014 payroll, which actually ended up being closer to $90 million as Spring Training rolled around, was 22nd highest in the league. It was just a hair higher than the Chicago Cubs, whose 2016 payroll is currently projected to be around $155 million.

It’s unclear whether Alderson purposely means to be condescending towards fans and media when he makes these kinds of statements, but the optimistic view is that he is simply trying to manage expectations. It can’t be that he believes the rest of us to be incompetents who didn’t notice that the team attempted to throw money at 34-year-old Ben Zobrist. The problem seems to be that they want to sign who they want, when they want, and only on their terms. That’s not really in line with reality.

Look, we all know that a high payroll doesn’t always equal success. Mets fans probably know that more personally than most fans. The idea isn’t to spend money just to spend money, but it also isn’t to make your team marginally better when the opportunity appears to be there to make it significantly better. You have to be smart, but you have to take risks and compromise sometimes as well. It just doesn’t seem that this front office, and ownership for that matter, is willing to do that. The off-season isn’t over and there are still impact free agents out there, so things may change before Spring Training. Do you think that probable, though?

21 comments for “Sandy Alderson, perceptions, and an inconsistent message

  1. DimC
    January 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Would you rather pay Cespedes, $100 for 4 years rather than $85 for 4 years. Alderson, is not stupid…look @ the market..think, for a moment..dont over judge..we’ve over paid for a long time, with no success…look, when Alderson, needed and was able to get the players that we needed. we made it to the finals…
    Chill People..Relax…Be Happy, that the payroll, is not like $175, and cannot make necessary move for the next 8 years…

    • January 9, 2016 at 11:15 am

      There’s always the chance that Alderson plays this well and lands Cespedes for a “discount.” He’s obviously not stupid. However, it has appeared in the past that he has read the market incorrectly and sat on his hands longer than perhaps he should have. It falls in line with the perception that he wants his deal on his terms. Which in itself is still just a perception from the outside. The Mets seem to value players how the value them and are unwilling to budge. It seems to have worked quite well for him in the trade market, but is that a sound strategy in the FA market?

      • January 10, 2016 at 7:13 am

        Not likely Rob. Before Cespedes ‘falls” into their laps the Tigers will sign him. I think it’s just a matter of his agent shooting for the stars and teams waiting for him to come back to reality.
        Just on a side note. Wouldn’t Justin Heyward be a justifiable signing in Alderson’s eyes then? If the team is willing to spend 60 million on a 34 year old then why as you say the team couldn’t slot Granderson and/or Wright’s money towards the back end of the contract? Where’s the creativity?

        • January 10, 2016 at 9:30 am

          Hey I’m with you, Pete. I wrote an article devoted to saying they should’ve tried to sign Heyward :).

          And yeah great point, chances are if he gets low enough he puts himself right back on the radar for many teams.

  2. Larry Smith
    January 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Good article Rob. I agree with it wholeheartedly. The fact that there was money for four years of Zobrist yet the team immediately bailed on Span, Parra, and Venable is very telling.
    I can’t wait to see the firestorm of backlash when De Aza proves to us that he does not belong in centerfield.

    And those who think that Alderson plans to lay in the weeds and will prop the team up again at the trade deadline may be in for a rude surprise. The cupboard is barer now than it was and it is highly unlikely that they can hit the Cespedes lottery again.

    • January 10, 2016 at 9:31 am

      Thanks, Larry! Very unlikely they hit that deadline lottery again, for sure.

  3. Andy B.
    January 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    A part of me accepts Alderson’s philosophy of finding exactly the right players and creating depth by finding multi faceted players. However, Cespedes is an impact player that provided a huge jolt. Yes, he did have a limited World Series partly due to his shoulder injury that he stupidly hurt playing golf of all things during the playoffs, but had it not been for some well documented errors the team had a chance. They could have won the series with Cespedes. With Cespedes’ arrival, the line up was lengthened and complementary players have a chance to shine more than they would without the threat that he provides. In modern day baseball economics, the team has to have the resources to sign these guys when they are available. I will try to enjoy our pitching now, because we are going to hear this same story when it becomes time to pay them.

  4. Eraff
    January 9, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I keep trying to reconcile the stated positions about financial sanity and defensive integrity with the D Aza signing…. Somebody, Help Me!

    • MattyMets
      January 9, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      I’m with you. The de Aza signing has everybody shaking their heads.

      • James Preller
        January 9, 2016 at 7:10 pm

        Yes, the comments about Cespedes defense in CF were disingenuous for two reasons: 1) He’d only play there for 2 years, not 5-6; 2) You can’t make that comment, then turn around and say that de Aza is your CF against RH starters.

        Sandy has made a lot of money working for the Wilpons, enabling and obfuscating and cashing checks. That’s okay, that’s reality, but he plays a willing role in this house of lies.

        That said: Can they win the East? Yes, maybe. I just wish this organization would shoot for excellence for a change. “Meaningful games in September” is all they’ve really aspired to — after that, hey, it’s a roll of the dice.

  5. Eraff
    January 10, 2016 at 4:48 am

    Meaningful Attendance in September

  6. Metsense
    January 10, 2016 at 7:56 am

    It is very difficult to “read” this front office. 4/16 for a 34 year old when 6/132 for a 30 year old is too many years. Cuddyer was 36 yoa when signed. I understand but don’t agree with not signing Cespedes because large free agent contracts hardly ever work. Cespedes vs De Aza and Zobrist. The initial plan should have been Cespedes.
    That being said, the equation became Cespedes vs DeAza, Cabrera and some other RH outfield bat not yet signed.
    Appaerently they don’t have the money

    • January 10, 2016 at 11:12 am

      I think it’s pretty clear that they are not going to spend $100 million for another team’s free agent.

      It’s also pretty clear that they crave veterans on short-term contracts and get off on acquiring an old guy with a value signing.

      The third thing that’s clear is that they value lefty relievers and will pay market prices to get one on a one or two-year deal. Tony Sipp got greedy looking for a three-year deal.

  7. Eraff
    January 10, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Does anyone know the actual player salaries for 2015? I don’t want the annuals added up, but rather the cumulative amount paid thru the end of season.

    I’m wondering how the present annuals compare to the 2015 total paid

  8. EddieMetz
    January 10, 2016 at 10:49 am

    There is time to add a BP arm.
    Mets surely want to see how Edgin, Smoker, Henderson make out before adding $$. I actually agree. Also, Gilmartin, Goedell may come out of spring training as options as well. Verrett and Montero in AAA as starter depth.
    Finally, Mejia is a knucklehead, yes, but he can pitch and will be back in July.
    I see Sandy maybe adding a Steve Pearce or something like that as the final bat, then rolling the dice up to the trade deadline. If there is a piece missing (and there likely will be- bat) then Sandy can pounce and fill it like he did last year. If Nimmo is ready, then he comes up like Conforto did last year.
    I still hold out hope for Cespedes, but Mets logic tells me it won’t happen.
    Time to drop the pipe dream. Let’s get it on.

  9. Eraff
    January 10, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Brian, if I understand the link provided, the MNets Paid about 109 million in player salaries in 2015. Most speculation has Openning Day Payroll (annual) at 115 Million… maybe a small bump fropm 2015 actual total.

    Hopeful that it means they have ability to add as needed, based on opportunities and need during the season.

    • January 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      It’s good to have hope.

      Alderson always claimed the ability to add payroll if needed. It’s encouraging that he actually did that at/near the deadline last year. But we should also keep in mind that it happened with insurance money from Wright’s contract and Mejia suspension money unexpectedly available.

  10. Eraff
    January 10, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    I’m past skeptic, straight to cynic

  11. Chris F
    January 11, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Very interesting read over at Fangraphs, where all 30 teams ownership groups are evaluated. Mets inch just ahead of the Marlins as the most hated, far below the average. It is clear that SAs decisions and mysterious approach continue to be filtered through owners that misunderstand the fans that root for this team.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/team-ownership-ratings-by-the-community/

    • TexasGusCC
      January 12, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Chris, remember back to pre-Alderson when many signings and moves were made to appease the fans, even though some were half-assed? Post Alderson: Screw the fans. Talk about things that may you go hmmmm…

      Now, the Madoff mess also affected the ownership for sure, but if the very few comments that have leaked out, whether it was Fred Wilpon at the All-Star game in 2013 saying that Collins has done a great job considering “what he had to work with”, or the jibe at Alderson last year at spring training when the same Wilpon said that he will be around more to evaluate the team, one gets the impression that not everyone is on the same page.

      But, while the Wilpons have stayed out of the picture for the most part, whenever they appear we don’t hear them saying anything pro-Alderson. While he is definitely saving their butt, it may not be by their methods.

      Remember when Alderson came in and fired all kinds of staff in the front office? Couldn’t the Wilpons done that? They did hire those “unnecessary” people. one has to wonder what the working agreement is exactly.

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