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.
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.