The Mets have to get this decision correct. Must. No matter how long it takes. Because it already is a seminal moment in Steve Cohen’s nascent ownership. After yet another season of too much rudderless Mets folly, the hire of a president of baseball operation must be a home run.
And yet the mere process — at least the way Sandy Alderson laid it out Wednesday — means a piece of the 2022 Mets, and a significant piece at that, will be at the mercy of the current administration. You know, the one led by Alderson that, among others, hired Jared Porter and Zack Scott. That failed to sign a first-round draft choice. That had players symbolically booing fans under its watch.
Alderson said the process of making that hire will “commence as soon as the end of the regular season.” He wouldn’t name names of who the Mets were pursuing, specifically dismissing doing so upon a question about Theo Epstein. But follow the bread crumbs. Epstein is the one high-profile candidate for whom the Mets do not theoretically — or is that Theo-retically — have to wait to gain permission to have a conversation. Because Epstein works for no team.
So either Alderson is being dishonest, the Mets are incompetent in not getting a head start in this vital process by gauging the interest and viability of a heavyweight possibility, or the Mets are not considering Epstein because they are not interested or he is not interested.
Again, the Mets should wait as long as they have to wait to get the right person. For example, if they believe Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns is the right person for the job and that they can get access to him this offseason in a way they could not last year, then even if Milwaukee goes to Game 7 of the World Series, they have to wait. Because the job is about more than 2022. And it is most pertinently about turning this baseball operation more professional and more competent to best capitalize on the largesse provided by a New York fan base and Cohen’s bank account.
But Alderson, for example, said the plan is to tell Luis Rojas and the coaching staff their fates as soon after the season as possible. So that is going to be the choice of Cohen, Alderson and the current lieutenants. If Rojas and the staff are dismissed, then finding replacements will be delayed as well until the Mets have a president of baseball operations in place — so no head start for a team that misses the playoffs and should get that head start.
The longer the Mets have to wait to fill the president of baseball ops job, the closer they get to the end of the World Series and qualifying offer choices on Michael Conforto and Noah Sydnergaard.
And the collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1. Without a deal between management and the union, MLB very possibly will order a lockout. No free-agent signings. No trades. Nothing. That is why you are seeing some business done already.
Atlanta, for example, extended potential free agents Travis d’Arnaud and Charlie Morton, and the same took place with Lance Lynn (White Sox), Brandon Crawford (Giants), Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Jonathan Schoop (Tigers) and Michael Taylor (Royals).
Expect a lot more, especially some early strikes in free agency — and perhaps the trade market — as both teams and players try to act before their wallets and creativity potentially are put on ice at the outset of December.
The longer the Mets take for this decision, the more all of that falls to the current front office, promising the potential for a 2021 Frankenstein’s monster of what this group wants, and the desires and plans of who might be hired. Obviously, this could work out. Brodie Van Wagenen made sure to put the qualifying offer on Marcus Stroman on the way out the door last year. But Alderson also bemoaned how the late handoff prohibited certain decisions, such as plucking Brad Hand off waivers (which actually turned out fortunate for the Mets).
Alderson suggested that the baseball calendar is the baseball calendar and that — among other items — would preclude a new top executive from mass changes to baseball operations. Alderson said the new person coming in would be “happy to have a functional group of capable people.” Of course, that is pretty debatable if what is being inherited is “capable people.” The Mets are a sub-.500 team again at the conclusion once more of too much humiliation on and off the field.
Yet, Alderson believes the Mets will have much to sell to fill a position that went unfilled last year because, among other reasons, so many desirable candidates were unavailable due to being under contract elsewhere and not getting permission to leave.
“I’m selling Steve Cohen,” Alderson said. “I’m selling New York. I am selling the opportunity to realize the potential of a storied, but not yet iconic franchise. There is a tremendous amount to offer to someone coming to the Mets.”
There is a lot there. And someone has to come in to maximize it. So however long it takes to find the right person to do that, so be it. But it does mean the 2022 Mets are very much at the mercy of those who brought you the 2021 Mets.
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