A few days ago, SNY’s Andy Martino broke down how the Mets’ front office handled the dizzying week that led to four free agents signing with the club. That alone would be impressive. But those four signings came right on the heels of Billy Eppler being named the team’s GM. Perhaps Eppler is a force of nature. Or maybe those people who were loudly complaining how the Mets didn’t sign a GM the day after the World Series ended meant they were doomed to failure were full of it.

Anyway, this was a pretty interesting quote from Martino:

As Eppler got to work, he worked on the pursuit of free agents Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Jon Gray and others. For the sake of continuity, (Sandy) Alderson ran point talking to (Javier) Baez’s camp because he had begun the discussions.

On parallel tracks, (Steve) Cohen negotiated with Max Scherzer and pitcher Kevin Gausman — both the agents and the players themselves — with assistance from Eppler and Alderson.

In an earlier piece, we speculated that Alderson himself was the source of Martino’s information. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that was the case again here, too. There’s detailed information here, so it’s either Alderson or someone else in the front office leaking this with approval from the higher ups.

My assumption is that the front office works up at least background information on every free agent who signs for a seven-figure or more deal. So, it’s not like Eppler walked into the job and started at ground zero. Still, to take whatever effort was done previously and turn it into three free agent signings is an impressive piece of work. The fact that the Canha and Escobar deals seem like bargains only adds to the feat. My guess is that the Marte deal works out well for the club, too, but that fourth year keeps it from being in the same class as the other two signings.

Regardless, this was an excellent way for Eppler to begin his Mets career. And the lockout actually comes at a good time, at least for the team’s new GM. Now Eppler can catch his breath, continue his familiarization with the entire organization and get to work on hiring the team’s new manager. While there will be no deals or trades with players while the lockout is in place, clubs can hire managers. And it seems like the Mets are the only team looking for a new skipper.

With the amount of money at stake, there’s little wonder that Cohen was involved in the Scherzer talks. Maybe it’s a tiny bit surprising that he took the lead but given what was on Eppler’s plate, it can hardly be considered a shock. And the fact that Cohen’s project was completed can be viewed as a feather in his cap. Sure, it’s easy to make a deal when you shatter the league record for AAV. But sometimes not screwing things up is easier said than done.

Which brings us to Alderson.

Many people here consider him the devil. Or at least the main reason that the team is coming off back-to-back losing seasons. These same people argued that the reason the GM search took too long was the presence of both Alderson and his son. They were concerned that GM candidates would look at that as a negative, as it would restrict how much power they actually had in the job.

Meanwhile, Alderson consistently said that he would be there to help the new GM, just like he was there for first Jared Porter and later Zack Scott last season. Furthermore, he said that if they hired someone with previous GM experience that he assumed he would have less to do at the start than he did with either Porter or Scott.

From my office chair, it seems that this was the exact way this played out. Alderson wasn’t leading the charge. Instead, he was working with a player with whom he had already begun discussions prior to Eppler’s hire. Martino’s story indicated that the Mets had offered Baez $125 million at the GM meetings. It didn’t say if they upped that initial offer. Baez ended up getting $140 million.

That $15 million difference was certainly enough for Baez to pick Detroit. My question, for both the anti-Alderson crowd and the rest: Are you angry that Alderson didn’t push Cohen for the funds to keep Baez? Was this a reasonable case of assigning a value to a player and holding to it or was it a case of being asleep at the wheel and letting a guy who performed better than expected leave over a (relatively) small amount of money?

And once all of the work was done by Eppler – and Cohen – on the four free agents they did sign, did the GM make the ultimate call on Baez? If you think the club made a mistake by not ponying up with the additional $15 million, do you blame Alderson – because that’s what you always do – or do you think that some combination of Alderson/Cohen/Eppler made the choice to end the Baez pursuit?

My preference was to bring Baez back. But if you gave me the choice of Baez or Scherzer, well, my pick would be Scherzer. Was Cohen willing to spend what it took to get Baez after the record-setting deal with Scherzer? Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly doesn’t seem right to crucify anyone in the way this has all played out.

There’s been little talk from the Mets’ POV about Marcus Stroman moving on. It wouldn’t be hard to have Stroman leapfrog Baez in terms of free agents the Mets should have re-signed. It would be curious to know if it was Eppler or someone else who determined that he wasn’t a priority target. Ah, who am I kidding – this is Alderson’s fault, too.

18 comments on “A look at how the Mets handled free agency before the lockout

  • Hobie

    Once upon a time there was a “Captain” who made up limeups & in game substitutions, and a “Manager” who wrote contracts, bought train tickets & made hotel reservations (some were “owners”). Then came non-playing (mostly) “Field Managers,” and “General Managers.” I can’t keep straight–nor really care, actually–the baseball operations suite hierarchy of today. It’s all necessary, I guess, and maybe I should care exactly who is responsible for that guy playing second and batting 6th. I just don’t.
    I do wonder how different staffing strategies were compared & analyzed. Would Canha $$ + the $125M offer landed Baez? I would have liked that (+Baez, -Canha) roster better. And if either Dom or JD (or both) are traded, it better be for Jesus, because one of them (or both) will be the next Justin Turner.

  • ChrisF

    Eppler has had a solid week. In fact the Mets have had a solid week. No reason to think otherwise. But some perspective is certainly in order.

    Eppler was hardly the first choice. The PBO search was still a fail. The GM search was tortured. Those are still facts regardless of the events post hiring Eppler. Eppler has a reason to smile, but lets also not forget he never posted a winning season as GM in Anaheim (something Alderson will be all too familiar with), despite having Mike Trout and bringing in Shohei Ohtani. Will he be the best GM? I guess we will find out out soon enough. Did the Mets fail to attract better GM candidates because of the Alderson malignancy? I think it likely.

    Moving to now for Eppler. It seemed clear that Scherzer saw 3 important things in choosing the Mets, none of which was how much he couldnt wait to throw in CitiField. 1. There was a desire to get a deal done before the lockout. 2. He got a record shattering AAV, and a commitment from the owner to win. 3. His home is a short distance from St Lucie. I didnt get the sense any one of those was the sole motivating thing.

    Im prepared to give Eppler (and Cohen) his fair due to drag this below average team into a success story. Im rooting for him and Cohen. I think the stench of last season must have been brutal for a guy like Cohen – and we are gonna see if the right combination of money and smarts can be developed in Queens to build a winner. Id be even more happy if Alderson never showed up again at 41 Seaver Way.

  • Steve_S.

    Besides hiring a manager (Buck or Brad?) and coaches and some more front-office staff, the Mets will get offers ready for more players. If they’re “going for it”, then I think they should sign Bryant for five years, move Escobar to 2B, have McNeil as a super-sub, trade either Davis or Smith and have one of them DH with Cano.

    Sign one more starting pitcher (Kikuchi?), and two more relievers (Chafin and Kelly or a reliever for Davis or Smith instead of the latter).

  • Wobbit

    I’m happy with Eppler… I like the Canha, Escobar moves as low-budget starting players with good upsides. Very glad we did not get Baez. Anyone bemoaning the fourth year of Martel should also admit that Baez’s game of hustle and spark wold also be greatly threatened with age. I dunno… I also did not love the Lindor-Baez thing. Let’s leave Lindor on the island he deserves and make him contribute by his play. I want him to feel pressure to earn his salary.

    Cohen may have dealt directly with Scherza also to make clear the new direction for the team, that the past Mets is the past. Scherza is no dope. He knew the Mets very well. He knew they were weak and rudderless right under their surface. Cohen needed to convince Max that the new guy was a complete departure…

    The key thing for all the haters, whether it be Alderson, Rojas, Wilpons, Brodie… is that you remain objective. It’s ok to hate, but you still have to be accountable to intelligence, see your own blindnesses. Assign blame when it comes up if you want, but then be willing to give credit when it also comes up. In this case, Sandy held it together under difficult circumstances… Mets moves, including hiring Eppler, seems to be breaking well at this time. We all have much to be grateful for compared to what we had in early November…

  • Footballhead

    To me, the real horror was the fact that Alderson did nothing of importance at the trade deadline to help the sagging (but still in first place) team.* The Braves did what it took to repair their OF and roster to both overcome the Mets, and make it into the playoffs. It’s what a well run organization does. That is the lesson I hope Cohen got from 2021, and is implementing the changes needed for 2022…..and not just throw big bucks around!

    I’m on board with the sentiments ChrisF expressed in his final paragraph.

    * Hill & Baez wasn’t enough, and I’m thrilled that we got Scherzer and not Baez. I guess we’ll never know the full story on why Stroman wasn’t a priority for the Mets.

  • NYM6986

    From one Steve S to another, you are spot on. With the addition of Scherzer, it seems like they want to go for it, so Bryant is a perfect addition to the roster and moving Escobar to 2B gives them a strong infield. With the extra bats we don’t need McCann to hit .280, and while it is likely he will rebound at the plate, more importantly he needs to continue to handle the staff and keep base runners in check. We are already a much better team than last year. Can’t wait for the season to start – someday

    • Steve_S.

      Thanks, Steve S! I’m OK with McCann for awhile, and am excited about him mentoring Alvarado maybe next year.

      • Steve_S.

        Oops, I meant 2023 for Alvarado.

        • Steve_S.

          I think I meant Alvarez. Gulp!

  • Metsense

    When Eppler sign Marte and Canha for the outfield and Escobar for 3B he upgrade the offense so there wasn’t a pressing need to sign Baez especially when the starting pitching still needed to be addressed. Cohen was the point on the Gausman negotiations and rumor has it that Gausman rejected more money from the Mets and signed with the Blue Jays. If Gausman signed with the Mets maybe Stroman would have been the next Met target .We will never know. Cohen was the point on the Scherzer negotiations. Scherzer also talked to deGrom. After the signing Cohen said that team research the value that the price was near their expected price. Canha also said the Cohen and Eppler made a personal visit to convince him to sign. The Mets have improved their team in a way that was unexpected and Eppler should get the credit for making the plan. It was a impressive first week for Eppler.

  • Paulc

    I’m fine with not signing Baez, but I would have preferred to sign Stroman. It appears the Mets did not make a seriously play for him and I don’t know why. The Mets need to sign another SP and Stroman seemed to be the best fit in terms of age, AAV, and contract length. Right now, a rotation of Scherzer, deGrom, Walker, Megill, and Peterson is weak in the 3-5 spots. Stroman would have strongly filled the 3-spot. Signing Rodon when the CBA is resolved seems to be the best option.

    • Steve_S.

      They are likely to sign another starter—maybe Kikuchi or Rodon. They also have Carrasco.

  • Wobbit

    Don’t sell Taijuan Walker short… He was extremely good much of the season, and was just asked to do an unreasonable amount of pitching last year (for his body). With any luck, he will be a major contributor next season. And don’t overlook a very qualified, if still green, Tyler Megill. I think the guy will be very very good.

    Rodon would be an amazing addition, because we need a lefty… but his health is no more sure than deGrom’s or Walker’s… still, I pull that trigger in a heartbeat.

  • Mr_Math

    It’s clear that the Wilpons were despised around here, justifiably so. In contrast, Mr. Stevie gets the benefit of the doubt around here, and that’s somewhat understandable. I wonder how long that benefit will last.

    Frankly, I’m rather unimpressed with the 4 free agents picked up, and the loss of the 4 free agents who walked. Mad Dog may turn out to be an excellent acquisition, but he is 37 years old, and has shown measurable (and non-trivial) signs of slowing down. As for the other 3 free agents, meh.

    Do the 4 ups minus the 4 downs yield the necessary net positive? I don’t see it, unless Mad Dog has a massive season, which is not impossible, but not probable, I’ll warrant. What this team needed was 3 high quality, young, #2/#3 types. With some luck, they might have been able to “get it done” with only 2 of those types. However, they let a perfectly fine one of those types walk to Chicago, and that’s inexcusable

    I don’t buy into the concept of “intangibles”, including this notion of Mad Dog causing the needed change of the allegedly “bad” clubhouse chemistry. My confidence lies with the modern metrics, which are demonstrably more reliable than the “intangibles”, such as, for example, the way modern metrics have repeatedly shown that the concept of a “clutch hitter”, that is, someone who is measurably better than others in clutch situations, is a total fallacy. I’ll believe that Mad Dog’s clubhouse contributions are a deciding factor when I see it demonstrated

    In contrast to my prior opinions, when I was much more optimistic, I don’t think 2022 will be significantly better for the Mets than 2021. What the (bleep) is the difference if you miss the postseason by 6 games instead of 12?

  • TexasGusCC

    In my view, Sandy Alderson gets alot of heat because of his ego. He came in and fired everybody. Now I understand that happens in business, but not when you don’t have anyone else ready to take over. He could have kept Allen Baird, who did a great job as minor league coordinator preparing minor leaguers, and a Front Office that was already working. Brodie could have reported to him, and the off season had already started. Instead, Alderson had to go on a major manhunt to find people and that was difficult because he hadn’t reached out to people in advance to have them ready to go!

    Then he goes ahead and fires a hitting coach that had success two years in a row because Alderson feels he isn’t kissing his butt enough. Alderson wants all analytics, all the time. Davis was more a “recognize what the defense is giving you and take it” approach asking players to use their experience and knowledge. Alderson insists that a pitcher will throw this pitch in that count and be ready. When the pitcher doesn’t, it’s oops, team didn’t hit all year.

    And the last thing that I want to point out is that in all the years Alderson ran the team, the minor leaguers came to the majors unprepared. Collins used to moan about how players came up unable to bunt. Everyone else can bunt and Dave Roberts had his NL MVP bunting in the World Series to win a game two years ago. Wouldn’t be able to if you never bothered practicing it, would you? Callaway had Ruben Amaro do a base running clinic in Cincinnati because of the sad base running, when as I recall that is never done during the season and is merely broached in spring training.

    Yes, Alderson is loathed and in my opinion for good reason. He deserves it. Further, when you promote your son in a billion dollar company before you leave or the other guy takes over, there’s no respect for that. If Bryn Alderson had gone to another organization and was promoted, that’s nice! If Eppler promotes him, well… maybe he did deserve it, maybe it was daddy. But, promoting your own son before you hand over the reins is bad form within the industry, whether Bryn deserved it or not. To use an Aldersonian phrase, it bad optics.

  • Wobbit

    I’d much rather see the Mets go forward without Sandy Alderson. The guy has been in charge of more than a few very mediocre teams, teams stuck in dead-ends, with very disappointing results. He’s hired bad people and made poor decisions. This is not to say that he never did anything good, just that the proof is in the pudding… let’s start fresh with some new energy.

    Leopards don’t change their spots.. he is what he is.

  • MikeW

    I like the Mets moves. They shook it up and they aren’t done. Time will tell. If you you are going to do the full flush, then Alderson needs yo be part of it.

    I’d rather have Pete Crow rather than two months of Baez. That was an impulsive move.

    Baez will languish in Detroit. I mean, who wants to play for the Tigers.

  • MattyMets

    Assuming we’re not done, I’m very pleased with the off-season so far. I didn’t feel good about long term investments in Baez or Gausman. I’m a Stroman fan and I find his whole situation perplexing. I’m not sure why he settled for 3 years with a rebuilding team or why that rebuilding team decided to make him a priority.

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