New York Mets Spring Training“Moneyball” was written in 2003 by Michael Lewis. The book was about how general manager Billy Beane used advanced sabermetrics to build the Oakland A’s with a limited budget. Sandy Alderson was Beane’s predecessor in Oakland. When the Mets hired him after the 2010 season, Alderson brought two of Beane’s disciples Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi with him. DePodesta has moved on to the Cleveland Browns and Ricciardi is still with the Mets as a special assistant to Alderson.

Since Alderson took over as the Mets GM, he has had a budget and limited financial resources to pursue players. Even with their success over the Last two years, the Mets have struggled to score runs. The Mets roster does not look like a roster that was built with advanced sabermetrics.

Beane valued on-base percentage. The A’s also had power hitters with Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez. In 2002, he brought in Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg had a .374 on base percentage. In 2006, the A’s had four starters with on-base percentages greater than .350 including Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher, Jason Kendall and Chavez. They won 96 games and lost in the AL championship series to Detroit, while with the 21st lowest team salary in the majors.

In 2016, the Mets relied on the long ball. They were second in the National League with 218 home runs, but they were 11th in runs scored with 655. They were tied with the Reds for 13th in the league for on-base percentage, only ahead of San Diego and Philadelphia. Even with Yoenis Cespedes, what happens if the Mets home run production drops in 2017? Even with great pitching, it could be a long year.

Alderson needs to look at the roster and make improvements in on-base percentage. There are positions where the Mets can make improvements to the roster, not by relying on free agency, but by adding value via trades.

Andrew McCutchen has a career .381 career on-base percentage. Cutch had a bad year last year. With the continued development of Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, the Pirates could afford to trade McCutchen. Alderson should sell high on Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. The Mets could build a package with Gsellman, Nimmo and another prospect. McCutchen has a $ 14 million salary in 2017 with a club option for 2018 at $ 14.5 million. That is lower than a qualifying offer.

The Mets could use an upgrade at first base. Lucas Duda is affordable, but what impact will his injury have on his performance. Loney is certainly not the answer. In 2016, Freddie Freeman hit over .300 with a .400 on-base percentage. Freeman has five years remaining on his contract at an average salary of $ 21 million. The Braves are continuing to rebuild and probably won’t contend until the end of Freeman’s contract. Freeman’s salary is increasing by $ 8 million from 2016 to 2017. It will take a lot to pry Freeman away from the Braves. Build a package with Dominic Smith, Gavin Cecchini and Seth Lugo plus another prospect. It is a tantalizing thought. The Braves will most likely try to dump Matt Kemp and his salary as part of the trade.

By adding McCutchen and Freeman to the middle of the lineup, the Mets can afford to lose Cespedes. It is highly likely that another team will outbid the Mets for Cespedes.

It is time for Alderson to use his sabermetrics to play “Lets make a deal.”

31 comments on “Sandy Alderson and Mets Moneyball

  • metphin

    Dream on ! Freeman from Braves to the Mets, in same division ? Crazy .

    Mets don’t need McCutcheon either. Give Nimmo a shot and they are still paying Lagares whose contract bumps up significantly this year and next.
    Save the $$ for Cespedes, not more outfielders. Read recently where Bruce has like 86 assists in the last 9 years, man that is super. An outfield of Cespedes, Nimmo/Lagares, Bruce would be very capable defensively. Mets fans just did not see Bruce for enough of a sample size. He is better both defensively and offensively than what we all saw. Mets need to make a decision at 2b, C, 3b, and 1B, “to Duda or not to Duda” that is the question. Pitchers hopefully all come back healthy and let’s rumble in 2017. The team has depth and can use it to answer questions or make smart trades. Time to retake the division in 2017.

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    • Mike Walczak

      Your comments are good, but the Mets could face a possible power outage next year. If they do, they could be sunk. The Mets don’t get on base or run, they trot around the bases. The Mets need to go back to fundamental baseball and get on base and have more of a balanced offense.

      There are two big coin tosses. To Duda or not to Duda and to Bruce or not to Bruce. Relying on these guys and Nimmo is a prayer and not a strategy. The Mets may have a 3-4 year window to win and that that window starts now. That is what Theo did in Chicago and look where they are.

    • Eric

      Agreed. Performance can certainly change from year to year and with a few tweaks the realitively low OBS could jump next year. I think they’ll start with a Lagares/Grandy platoon to start the season. Things have a way of changing due to performance and injury during the season and I’m sure Nimmo will start to get more playing time unless of course he’s traded.

    • Gregg Hirshberg

      Let Bruce go. He’s Bay 2.0. You want more of a Bruce sample size?He’s a 231 hitter over the last 3 seasons. We saw him for who he is. A streaky hitter, who can go on a real tear for a couple of weeks, but then give you nothing for a month.

      Lagares should start in center, I’m with you. If he started game 1 of the WS, we just may have won that game, because there wouldn’t have been an “inside-the park home run” to start off the game.

      As for first, I want to either shop Duda or just let him go. Hand first to Loney and Flores. Loney hit 282 against righties, and Flores hit 340 against southpaws.

    • Joe Gomes

      Lets say that Cespedes leaves and the Mets trade Granderson for prospects.
      They can go with this team instead.

      Reyes
      Cabrera
      Conforto LF
      Encarnacion 1B
      Bruce RF
      Walker 2B
      Lagares / Nimmo CF
      d’Arnaud / Plawecki C

      Encarnacion, Walker plus Conforto will replace whatever is lost by Cespedes leaving.

      Walker and Bruce get qualifying offers at the end of the year and the Mets get 2 draft picks. Mets pick up Cabrera’s option and can either trade him or keep him since Rosario will be the starting shortstop in 2019.

      • Gregg Hirshberg

        Why would we want Encarnacion? He’s going to be 34 next year.

  • Chris F

    It turns out you selected OBP as a thing to improve, but across the board the Mets offense was in the bottom third of *everything* save HR and slugging and OPS, which was carried by slugging. RBIs, runs scored, singles, doubles, triples all were in tank. It emphsizes what a wildly imbalanced team this was, and when the HR stopped coming, so did Ws. Granny’s 30 HR and 59 RBIs is a sad story, but emblematic of the problem.

  • Eric

    Why would the Braves trade Freddie? He’s 25 yrs old with his best years ahead. Makes no sense. Going forward, they’ll need him!

    • Mike Walczak

      They would trade him because he is getting paid $ 20 million+ per year.

    • Mike Walczak

      You are 100% correct. In the old days, teams with numbers like this had players like Dave Kingman and Rob Deer.

  • MattyMets

    I completely agree about the way this offense has been poorly constructed. One issue is that we do not really have a replacement for Wright. I’m not talking a capable fill-in at third base, but rather a right-handed hitter with a high OBP who clobbers lefties. Flores only has 2 out of 3 of those qualities. In his prime, Wright was a terrific OBP guy. Every lineup needs at least one. We have some solid guys like Grandy, Ces, Cabrera, Walker, Duda, but not one of them is a .375+ OBP guy.

    If Joey Votto didn’t have a LeBron James contract, I’d say he’s a great solution.

    • Mike Walczak

      Votto would be a great solution except his contract feels and smells like Bobby Bonilla. Wright is a big problem. I love David Wright who is one of the greatest Mets, but he really needs to retire. Grandy is not solid. He played poorly for most of the year and hurt the team until he got a little hot at the end of the year. I would not want to place a bet on any of these fellows to produce great or even good numbers. You have to look at their ages and prior average years.

  • Gregg Hirshberg

    I love the idea of getting both, or either of those 2. But let’s be realistic.

    You aren’t getting McCutchen for Gsellman, Nimmo and another prospect. If that prospect is Rosario, then maybe. But do we really want to give all that up, for a guy turning 31, who we’d only have under control for 2 years?

    As for Freeman. I don’t see the Braves trading him to us. And I don’t see them trading him for guys who are 2 years away.

    Also, these two deals cost us pitching depth. Something we absolutely need. If we brought in those 2, it would add $34M to the payroll for next season.

    What you didn’t touch on, about those A’s, is how they were built. From within. And when they brought players in, they brought guys in who met their budget, and their approach.

    We don’t need to build some lineup of all-stars, as nice as that would be, it’s not realistic or a good investment. The Giants contend year in and year out, Cardinals too. Not because they have lineups that strike fear, but because they have ball players who do the little thing. Work counts, make plays in the field.

    I’d like to see us trade for Brandon Phillips. Yes, he’s 35, and I’m not a fan of acquiring 35 year olds. But in the field, he’s going to make all the plays he should. And on the bases, he’s not a speed demon, but he can take an extra base still. I’d like to see Flores and Loney platoon at first.

    My 2017 lineup for the Mets:
    3B-Reyes
    2B-Phillips
    LF-Cespedes
    RF-Conforto
    SS-Cabrera
    1B-Loney
    C-Rivera
    CF-Lagares
    UTL-Flores
    OF-Granderson
    C-d’Arnaud
    3B-Wright
    UTL-Johnson
    OF-Ruggiano

    SP-Syndergaard
    SP-Harvey
    SP-DeGrom
    SP-Matz
    SP-Gsellman
    RP-Salas
    RP-Colon
    RP-Blevins
    RP-Robles
    RP-Reed
    RP-Familia

    I’d be happy to find a speedy guy for the 5th OF position and pinch running duties.

    If this is our roster, and it stays relatively healthy, we win the east.

    • Mike Walczak

      Votto would be a great solution except his contract feels and smells like Bobby Bonilla. Wright is a big problem. I love David Wright who is one of the greatest Mets, but he really needs to retire. Grandy is not solid. He played poorly for most of the year and hurt the team until he got a little hot at the end of the year. I would not want to place a bet on any of these fellows to produce great or even good numbers. You have to look at their ages and prior average years.

    • Mike Walczak

      This lineup would have a very low OBP, they would hit some home runs but would strike out a lot. They would not lead the Mets to the WS. In 86, we had Carter, Hernandez, Ojeda and Sid, who were all brought in via trades. If Theo can repeat his Boston magic in Chicago, why cant Alderson be bold and make some great moves.

      • Gregg Hirshberg

        Alderson can make great moves. But Theo’s best moves, have been the budget moves. Arietta has worked out way better than Heyward. The deal for Russell was fantastic.

        I’m all for making smart moves, that improve the club. But we just won 97 games, and of our young pitchers, only one had more than 150IP. The only position player to reach 150 games, was Granderson. If we stay healthy, and I don’t mean injury free, just healthy enough to get 180IP from 3 of our pitchers and 2 position players reach 150..we should win the east.

        Yes, our offense needs some tinkering. But a lot of that can also be helped by a new approach. It would be easier, and cheaper (both economically and cost less talent) to put better gloves on the field.

        Don’t focus as much on OBP, but +OPS. Cubs had 5 guys in their lineup with 100+, same as us.

  • Gregg Hirshberg

    The high OBP first basemen we want, is a year away. Or we could do a dumb thing, and make a big offer for Hosmer. Who would be great for us, but as a Boras guy who is 1 year away from FA, he’s going to test the market. And he’ll get around $180-200m.

    So lets be patient. Trust in our pitching and tweak the lineup and roster.

    • Name

      There’s not a chance in hell Hosmer is getting that much. If he repeats 2016 and has another poor season, he’ll struggle to get what Daniel Murphy got. If he rebounds to 2015 levels, it’s still doubtful he could crack $75 mil.

      • Gregg Hirshberg

        Hosmer battled an injury the second half of the year.

        Hosmer will be 28 his first year with his new team in 2018. With 4 Gold Gloves, 2 World Series appearances, enough power to hit 25 HRs in one of the toughest parks in the game.

        Seattle gave Cano 240m at 31 yo, and middle infielders aren’t known for aging gracefully. Chris Davis signed for $161m, when he was 29, and he had hit 233 in the 2 seasons before. Shin-Soo Choo signed for $130m, when he was 30. Heyward just got $184m, coming off a year in which he hit 230.

        There aren’t many better 1B than Hosmer. And there aren’t any others on the market in 2018. He’s going to get a huge contract.

        • Chris F

          For sure: $$$$$$$$

    • Mike Walczak

      Yes, we can trust our pitching. You are right, Hosmer would be a bad move. Freddie Freeman is a great fit for the Mets. Yes, you give up a ton for him, but he is the type of player that the Mets need now, to win the whole thing. The fans need to put pressure on the Mets to make good moves, not just make roster filler moves. Walker and Cabrera played great, but the Mets got lucky with them. Is it realistic to expect either to repeat what they did in 2016? No, it is not realistic. The Mets have some trade chips and they need to use them. Dominic Smith does not have a lot of HR power, but he is the type of player that the Mets lack, a guy who can get on base. Look how we got spanked by the Royals. Tough outs, they didnt strike out and they got on base. Fundamental baseball. You could rely on the HR if you had a bunch of players that were reliable HR hitters. You cant rely on a guy like Granderson who hits 30 HR and has less than 60 RBI’s. Subtract Granderson’s HR’s (30) from his RBI’s (59) and you have the number 29. Ouch ouch ouch

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      • Gregg Hirshberg

        Actually, that’s not really the case. The Royals had a .295 OBP in the WS.

        What made the difference, was base running and fielding. Cespedes in game 1. Duda’s throw in game 5. They stole 7 bases, we stole 1.

        The Royals beat us, and I’m a Met fan who lives in KC and went to game 2, because they do the little things. They make few mistakes and they take advantage of the other teams mistakes. It’s not a great lineup. They swing at everything. But they put the ball in play, and their speed puts pressure on a defense.

  • Jimmy P

    A lot of writers have tackled the Sandy Alderson & Moneyball topic. And to me, you fell into a common trap by over-simplifying it to Moneyball = OBP.

    In my view, “Moneyball” was about using all the resources available to find market inefficiencies. At the time, OBP was a somewhat undervalued skill; you could get those guys cheaper. Not that they were the best guys, but that he could at least afford them. Somewhat neglected in that book was that he already had some young, outstanding players, so for the most part he will filling in with complementary pieces, not foundation-building.

    In today’s baseball, the “new OBP” might be “guys who make contact” or “guys who can go from 1st to 3rd on a single to CF,” or locating players at a certain age who might have emergent power. I don’t know. I think defense is possibly undervalued in today’s marketplace.

    The news on OBP is old news; the word is out. Once that happens, it ain’t Moneyball no more.

    Sandy has more financial resources now, so he appears to be less inclined to search the fringes for his solutions.

    The real test will be what he does with these pitchers, but I think that time is a year away. In Oakland, he let them walk, never made the big trade, wanted those guys for the length of the contract. Of course, that’s ancient history.

    • Chris F

      ^ +1

    • Gregg Hirshberg

      Great points, but he didn’t let the pitchers walk. He let Zito walk. But he traded Mulder for Dan Haren among others. And they traded Hudson for 3 guys that didn’t pan out.

      As much as I love the movie (never did read the book), it still totally glanced over the fact that that team had legit 3,4 and 5 hitters. And perhaps the best 1-3 starters in the game.

      The franchise we should model ourselves after, is the Giants. No 20 homer or 100 RBI guys this year. Only 1 guy that draws a ton of walks. But they have guys who do just about everything “pretty good”. And they have had some great pitching.

      We have the pitching, and some of the right guys.We need to tinker with the roster, nothing drastic.

      • Chris F

        Thats interesting Gregg, and I suppose the WS rings the Giants have certainly talks to a “way” of doing things. I like the things you say about doing everything good. But lets be honest, it is only 1 of multiple successful pathways. I certainly think a strong spine, good balance elsewhere, and a strong pitching staff is the core of getting things done. Pitching never gets old, and the more the better. Clearly Alderson has a very different picture of the world, and one I am not too overwhelmed by. I disagree however that we are at a point of tinkering. We are below MLB average at many positions, and uncertain who may even field those positions next season: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, and uncertainty what names will be in the OF, for example we have no committed CF, even if we have personnel all present (even minus Ces). I dont see this as tinkering myself.

    • MattyMets

      Jimmy P. You’re exactly right, as evidenced by the absurd overpay that Jason Heyward got last off-season.

      I think Brandon Nimmo has the potential to be a high OBP guy. Good news is, he comes cheap!

    • Mike Walczak

      Who did the 86 Mets have at the top of the lineup? Dykstra, Backman and Mookie. They could all get on base and they could all run. The Mets cant run. I love the Mets pitching, but I dont like their roster makeup to score runs. I love Rosario, Cecchini and Dominic Smith, but by the time they make it up and become productive, the Mets window could be closed, because the Pitchers are going to start leaving or getting very large contracts. So, the window is now. Fill in pieces cannot be the James Loney’s of the world. Loney’s OBP the last two years has been .307 and .322. If it was .370 or .380, the conversation would be different, but it is not. In 2016, the Mets were 28th in MLB with 42 SB. In 86, Dykstra, Strawberry and Wilson had 94 between them.

  • Jerryk

    McCutheon,Freeman! I like your thinking. If only you were the GM. And you’re not even giving up that much to get them. How about a trade for Mike Trout?

    • Mike Walczak

      McCutchen could be had because he had a bad year last year. Freeman could be had because he is going to make $ 20 million+ per year.

      Lets go Alderson. Lets make those winter meetings count.

      To preserve the pitching staff and win those big games, look what the Indians did. They added Miller. Look what the Royals had, Wade Davis and Kelvim Herrera. The Cubs added Chapman. There is science to this winning formula.

      When was the last time (year) that the Mets made a big trade that paid off?

      • RJH

        I’m sorry, but these trade proposals are nothing short of a pipe dream.

        If you think Lugo and Gsellman have the trade value to land bonafide superstars in McCutchen and Freeman, then you are out of your mind.

        Landing McCutchen may be more possible. But even coming off of a down year, the Pirates will not sell low on him just for the sake of it. As for Freeman, you might as well forget about it. In terms of prospects, the Mets have nothing that the Braves will want enough to trade their superstar first baseman.

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