Sandy Alderson’s off-season in hindsight

Last summer, the Mets faced up to the grim reality that their injury riddled team would not be able to compete for a playoff spot in 2017 and unloaded some veterans on expiring contracts. By season’s end the team resembled the 2015 White Sox. That is, they still had two frontline starting pitchers, a quality closer and half a lineup’s worth of solid bats, but a lot of holes around them.

Management could have folded as the Chicago South siders did, tearing down their roster and building up a strong farm system on the backs of painful trades of franchise players. Can you imagine the haul of minor league prospects we could have gotten for Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom? Alternatively, management and ownership could have doubled down and added top free agents from a group that included ace pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, franchise hitters like Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, and topline closers like Wade Davis and Greg Holland. They also could have swung trades for dynamic leadoff-hitting second baseman like Dee Gordon, Jason Kipnis or Josh Harrison.

Or, they could do what the Mets typically do and neither fold nor raise, but rather check. For those of you who don’t play poker, this means the Mets effectively sat on their hands. They maintained status quo by bringing in a handful of second tier free agents to fill the obvious holes, but not really move the needle. Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas, Anthony Swarzak and Jose Reyes each filled a need and each signed a relatively modest deal, but none of these guys is going to carry a team to a pennant. The thinking was that the heavy lifting would be done by a talented, but underperforming pitching staff that was now healthy and receiving the support of new coaches and trainers. Meanwhile Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto surrounded by a few sturdy veterans would drive in enough runs to win.

Well, a month ago, when the Mets got off to an 11-1 start, this appeared to be a genius plan. Fast forward to a struggling team that has dropped to fourth place, and this plan appears to have been ill-conceived. What happened to the creative trades? Why was free agency the only route to improving this team? Considering we had a limited budget, did we spend our money as wisely as we could have? Let’s take a moment to second guess.

Bruce, Frazier, Vargas, Swarzak and Reyes cost us a combined $32.5 million this season (note that the first four have backloaded contracts and come cheaper this year). The Mets also spent $15.25 million for the options picked up for Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins, but at the time, this was the right decision based on the information we had. And that notion brings us to Bruce.

At the time we signed Bruce, it was a no-brainer. We had enough uncertainty in the outfield and at first base and needed a big lefty to protect Cespedes, He checked every box and we got him on a reasonable contract. Yes, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares have outperformed expectations and Conforto came back sooner than we thought, but it’s a long season. This move still checks out, as does the signing of Frazier, who has not only added strong defense to the hot corner and a nice OBP, but also a spark and some leadership to the dugout. Yes, Mike Moustakas wound up getting a one-year deal, but no one saw that coming and if the Mets were in on him, his price would have sky rocketed.

It’s not hard to argue that Reyes has come up well short so far, but he now has a chance to prove himself filling in for Frazier at third. Perhaps some regular playing time will help him get going. If not, his $2 million salary won’t be tough to write off. As for the choices we made on pitchers, this is where a little hindsight doesn’t look so good. Swarzak has missed most of the season thus far and Vargas, following a missed month to his own injury, has been struggling mightily. As of now, there are a whole lot of cheaper options out there that are far outperforming these guys.

Thankfully, it’s a long season and these new faces will have ample opportunity to prove their worth.

12 comments for “Sandy Alderson’s off-season in hindsight

  1. May 11, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Matt if anything can be said about hindsight its the signing of Matt Harvey in the hopes that Eiland could teach him how to pitch. Wasn’t going to happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. And while I;m not a fan of Alderson. Kudos to him for signing Lobaton this off season. Too many frail players to be depended upon.

    • MattyMets
      May 11, 2018 at 9:44 am

      As much as Frazier and Bruce fit and everyone likes them I thought signing both of them was the wrong move. I would have either signed Frazier and Cain or else Bruce and traded for one of the second baseman. Cabrera’s bat has been great by his lack of range at second has been a problem. Gordon was the one I really wanted. .340 with 15 steals atop this lineup would have been huge. As I pointed out before the season started, this team’s lack of speed is going to be a problem.

  2. TexasGusCC
    May 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Kipnis would have cost $15MM and Paul Sewald. Surely, it was Sewald the Mets balked at.

    Also, in hindsight articles, we don’t give a pass. Bruce got three years when others were getting two. Adding AGone has created a lineup problem because even if Conforto were to be out until May, what would happen then? How do you spend five years developing Nimmo but not give him five consecutive days of playing time? And while they wanted to show urgency in April during the winter, now they’re telling us that it’s a marathon? Oh, when did that change?

    Lastly, Alderson had a chance to learn new tricks and embrace the new stat, batting average, as he got rid of the windmills and said that the team needed to make more contact this year. So, let’s look at how he fixed that. He brought more windmills. LOL!

    • MattyMets
      May 11, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      Kipnis is off to a terrible start and Harrison got injured. Gordon has been fantastic. While a lot of guys got less than expected in free agency, a few guys the Mets were in on got more like Lorenzo Cain and Brian Shaw. I think we all would have loved Cain on a 2 year deal and figured he might get 3, but 4?! Players like him don’t age well. For every Curtis Granderson there are five Jacoby Ellsburys.

  3. Name
    May 11, 2018 at 11:28 am

    A big mistake this winter was bringing in Mickey Callaway.

    Can’t believe i’m saying this, but he’s an even worse version of Collins. At least Collins understood how to manipulate a NL roster, which Callaway has no idea how to do. And like Matt Harvey, he’s shown zero sign of changing and adapting. He needs to go

    Fire Callaway

  4. eraff
    May 11, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I’d like to get some more distance before I start looking back.

    The idea that you’d hate the Harvey Signing and like the Lobaton Signing is amazing! Harvey was a very expensive Lottery ticket with a high payout–and $5 million of Risk Seed is a small price, even knowing the eventual result.

    Lobaton is a complete Non-Factor…a Knife in a Gun Fight. He is not now and never will be an MLB Level Player.

    Nothing has changed here… the team remains entirely chained to whether the Starters can pitch.

    Here’s my big issue– Ramos….. Vargas… They scouted these guys! They wanted them.

  5. May 11, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Well, it’s always easy to second guess after six weeks have unfolded. I think the majority of people embraced each move when it was made. But free agents are older guys and old guys get hurt and that’s what we’re dealing with to one degree or another with Bruce, Frazier, Swarzak and Vargas now. If we had good health from those four, it would likely be a different picture.

    • Mike Walczak
      May 11, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      I have an excellent solution. Let’s sign Rafael Palmeiro to play first base! He just played his first game in an independent league.

  6. Steevy
    May 11, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Bruce won me over last year and I thought his signing was good.It still might turn out to be.Was very against the Gonzales signing.

  7. TJ
    May 11, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Matt,
    I am mostly with Eraff’s view above. I like Bruce, but I don’t think his signing was a no-brainer. Three years did not make a lot of sense unless the Mets were certain that when Conforto recovered he would be the every day CF. And, it also didn’t make a lot of sense given Alderson’s expressed valuation of Nimmo. There were other lefty power bats to cover Cespedes pre-Conforto that did not require a 3 year commitment.

    I was fine with the Harvey bet, it was a worthy risk.

    Losing Swarzak for multiple months and both catchers certainly hurts, but every team has injuries. The biggest problems (among many) that this team has is the lack of stepping up from its young players – Wheeler and Matz as starters, and Conforto, Rosario, and Smith as position players. This scares me much more than the so so performances of the veterans. The Braves and Phillies are getting big contributions from young players and the Mets are not. Unless it changes, this spells trouble today, tomorrow, and into the foreseeable future.

  8. Dalton Allison
    May 13, 2018 at 1:28 am

    In hindsight, maybe they should have considered starting to downgrade the roster following last season. With an extremely similar lineup to last season, how could they think that ybis season would be different? This team might be in some trouble in a few years when the veterans are gone and we have no youth talent to supplement it, and no money to sign big guys due to the understandable imminent contractural demands of deGrom and Syndergaard.

    • TexasGusCC
      May 13, 2018 at 1:47 am

      We will do it the Tampa Rays way: When players start becoming expensive, we trade them off. The Tampa Mets!

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