It won’t be an easy task for Sandy Alderson to turn around the Mets. Naming a manager is on everybody’s mind now, but that’s just one of the issues on a lengthy things-to-do list.
No doubt all these things were discussed during the interview process:
1) ORGANIZING HIS STAFF: John Ricco is already on board as assistant general manager, but Alderson has thoughts of his own for the remainder of his staff. Alderson’s reputation is having his hands in everything, and that means surrounding himself with people he trusts.
From scouting to minor league operations to the medical staff, Alderson has his own ideas and won’t blindly inherit Omar Minaya’s staff and the remainder of the Mets’ organization. You might see in the upcoming weeks, perhaps even ahead of naming the manager, announcements on Alderson’s staff.
There’s little doubt Alderson hasn’t already begun the evaluation process, and there should be a minimum of time before naming any new pieces.
Is it possible for some of the Mets’ organization to stay in place? Absolutely. He’s been around; he knows who’s good or not from the existing staff. Part of the process will depend on his conclusions as to how much Minaya was responsible to the existing mess.
2) NAMING A MANAGER: I appreciate the sentiment naming Wally Backman might cause the perception the Wilpons are still calling all the shots, but the former Mets’ second baseman is reportedly on his list.
Alderson already has his short list, which he’s keeping close to the vest. Jerry Manuel was too passive in many areas, and the choice should be someone with a firmer hand. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a dictator.
A candidate without a Mets’ background will also be one of the things he’ll consider. Alderson, by himself, represents change, so I don’t think they’ll name a manager just to sell tickets. That is part of the rationale in Backman.
Whomever is chosen, he should be a teacher with an ability to work with young talent as the Mets have a core in Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Mike Pelfrey, Ruben Tejada and Jon Niese. The right balance between motivation and patience must be made.
3) DECIDING ON WHERE ARE THE METS TODAY: Are the Mets a .500 team that needs a minimum of rebuilding to be competitive next year or are they a team that needs an overhaul?
Alderson must decide on what being competitive means in 2011. Is .500 good enough or should they wait until 2012 when he has more salary to work with?
The decision on where the Mets will largely be dependent in part on Alderson’s budget. With $130 million earmarked for 2011, just how much flexibility will he be given?
They have the pieces in place to improve if Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran are healthy and productive, but those are just two of several things that must break right. The Mets learned since the end of the 2006 season that hoping isn’t a sound strategy.
There are holes in the rotation, and bolstering the bullpen and bench is a must. They are closer to last place than first place.
The answer to this issue will determine just how much work needs to be done.
4) ASCERTAINING JOSE REYES: He’ll probably stay, but if Alderson decides the team is far away he’ll have to consider whether Reyes is more valuable on the field or with what he might bring in a trade.
You just don’t deal a player like Reyes without considerable thought, and Alderson has to look at the injury history the past two years and whether there’s still a ceiling for him.
If Alderson believes dealing Reyes could fill two or three holes, then that has to be on the table. The flip side is having somebody to replace him, and right now they don’t.
Reyes can be, and has been, a dynamic talent for the Mets, but it also must be remembered the Mets haven’t won with him. Ditto David Wright.
5) DECIDING ON A PITCHING COACH: Mike Pelfrey and RA Dickey endorsed Dan Warthen, but that’s not enough. The manager should have the right to name his pitching coach and the rest of his staff.
Assuming Alderson is already reaching out to potential managers, it is a safe assumption the new pitching coach is already on the radar.
The Mets pitching staff statistically improved last summer under Warthen, but how much of that was not having Oliver Perez and John Maine? I would say plenty.
6) WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEADWOOD: I think the sooner they are rid of Perez and Luis Castillo, the better. However, just ditching them as suggested the other day might not be a prudent move.
Alderson needs to change the culture and not having Perez would do that. However, Perez rarely pitched last summer and was coming off an injury. The rational thing to do would be to add to the pitching staff thinking Perez won’t be there, but allow him to work on his mechanics and strength in the winter leagues.
There are no games being played now, and either way Perez will get $12 million in 2011 from the Mets. If they have one more opportunity to see if Perez can turn it around they should take it.
Castillo, at least, wanted to play. The Mets don’t like eating salary, but $6 million is more palatable than $12 million.
7) BUILDING THE ROTATION: The assumption must be made Johan Santana will be out for much of the season if not all.
Nobody thinks they’ll sign Cliff Lee, but there’s no harm in contacting his agent.
The current rotation consists of Pelfrey, Dickey and Jon Niese. Is Dillon Gee a real option? We don’t know, but he’ll get a shot. The prudent thing to do with Jenrry Mejia, since they misused him last year, would have him start in the minor leagues.
The Mets need to add two starters, which is why giving Perez a chance in winter ball is a prudent thing. Then they can attempt to add some middle-tier arms in the offseason so the team would at least be competitive.
8 ) DECIDE ON CARLOS BELTRAN: It’s highly doubtful Alderson will find a taker for the injured and highly-priced – $18.5 million for 2011 – Beltran.
Any deal they might make would necessitate them picking up a considerable piece of the remaining salary, and with that being the case they are better off hoping he has something left in his walk year.
However, it is clear Beltran, as he is now, can’t play center field on a regular basis. Alderson, with the new manager, must meet with Beltran to discuss a move to right field.
This can’t be a thing to be debated during spring training. The decision must be made before.
9) THE BULLPEN: The Mets’ reaching a settlement with Francisco Rodriguez only tentatively answers the closer question. Assuming things work out for Rodriguez in court then the Mets can address the rest of their bullpen.
The Mets need to make a decision on Hisanori Takahashi by Oct. 31, and it is believed they will offer him two years. An ironclad promise to start can’t be made because they won’t have a manager by then, but bringing him back is important.
Bringing back Pedro Feliciano is also necessary, as is finding a role for Bobby Parnell.
The bullpen has been mix-and-match the past few seasons and this winter will be more of the same.
10) EVALUATING THE MINORS: By most accounts, the Mets are stronger in the lower levels of the minors than they are in the higher classes.
A lot was made after the season about developing a “Mets Way,’’ in the farm system where a certain philosophy and style of play is adapted and taught at all levels.
I would like to see that with the Mets, where it is ingrained in the young players that they play an aggressive, fundamental style of ball. The transition from level to level must be as seamless as possible.
The Mets are starting over with Alderson, and that includes on all levels.
John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years. You can read him at newyorkmetsreport.com.