As he did back in December, Mets GM Sandy Alderson took some time this evening to answer questions from Mets bloggers, including yours truly. I've included some notable quotes below and a full transcript can be found after the jump. If you're on Facebook, please click the "Like" button on this post if you dig it.
On whether fan sentiment played a role in the decision to release Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez:
"[We] become more acutely aware of how much antipathy there was in New York toward these two players, and so in the case of Castillo I thought I was being candid by just admitting that to some extent fan sentiment came into play."
On the team's finances with respect to the trade deadline:
"I think if we're in the hunt the money will be there to add a player."
On the farm system:
"I think the reason that the farm system perhaps doesn't get as much credit as it should, is that number one, we've graduated several players now from the system as recently as last year, so if you look at [Josh] Thole, [Bobby] Parnell, [Ike] Davis, that's a very good rate of emerging players in one year or so."
On making spring training roster decisions:
"I think that the career body of work is normally what gets a player into camp who is under consideration for the first time or who is going to be thrown into a competition, so I think you have to keep in mind the career numbers and trends, and strengths and weaknesses."
On bullpen battles:
"[Y]ou've got a couple of guys, [Blaine] Boyer, Manny Acosta, who are very, very close in terms of overall results, but they get there in different ways. Boyer is basically a ground ball pitcher. Acosta has the livelier fastball and is more of a strikeout guy, maybe a little more command, but occasionally gives up a three-run homer as he did yesterday."
On Brad Emaus:
"I’m happy that over the past few days Brad Emaus has started to show offensively what he can do. He’s also begun to - he turns the double play very well, we’ve seen that. He may not have the range of some prototypical second basemen, but he’ll make the routine plays, and we think he’s going to fit pretty well for us."
On whether t-shirt sales or team history factor in to decisions about the roster:
"[Take] someone like Chin-lung Hu. People have latched on to his name in the "who’s on first?" and all of those kinds of things. So he’s developed a little bit of a following and become part of the entertainment value of what the team represents. Now that’s not going to determine whether he makes the team or someone else does, but it’s a factor, I guess, of some small magnitude."
On whether Emaus's Rule 5 status has affected his likelihood of making the team this spring:
"If he were not a Rule 5 draftee, the decision wouldn’t have the immediacy that it does. If we don’t keep him we have to give him back. If he's not our starting second baseman I'm not sure he helps us."
In making changes when a team is struggling:
"[O]nce you make a decision going into the season, you do want to give people an opportunity to demonstrate that they can play and have to be careful about pulling the trigger too quickly and not giving somebody a chance to perform in a way that doesn’t feel as if they’re constantly under the gun."
On Jason Bay:
"In the offseason he worked with an old hitting coach of his from Pittsburgh, came into spring training with kind of a new setup at the plate, and recently canned that, went back to his old approach."
On Jose Reyes and whether the Mets will re-sign him:
"Speed is his game, but in order for that speed to work for him offensively, he’s got to be on base. I think he’s acknowledged that. If Jose Reyes had a .400 on-base percentage, I don’t know that anybody would be debating this, given what else he does."
On whether some unknown player will make the Opening Day roster:
"Nick Evans is certainly in the mix. Whether or not Carlos can go at the beginning of the season, I think Nick is in the mix to make the team. He’s at least one of two or three people for the last one or two spots."
Michael Baron (MetsPhotos): You've had a noteworthy week as far as roster and financial decisions are concerned and I was just curious even last week when the first decision came down with Luis Castillo and then later on with Oliver Perez, how much did the fan sentiment regarding those two players play in to those decisions? Obviously their performances spoke for themselves, but did the fans' feelings, their opinions, and, frankly, their venom, play a role in those decisions?
Sandy Alderson: The short answer is, in Castillo's case, probably, and in Perez's case, probably not, because it didn't get to that point. One of the reasons for bringing both players back was to have an opportunity myself with others who are new to the organization to actually see the players, get to know the players, watch them perform, see what they might have done in the offseason to get ready and be able to make a decision that is based not only on history but on current events. At the same time, the other opportunity I think all of us had was to become more acutely aware of how much antipathy there was in New York toward these two players, and so in the case of Castillo I thought I was being candid by just admitting that to some extent fan sentiment came into play. Number one, it's difficult to overcome that so you evaluate a player's performance, or we did in this case, against that presumption in the minds of the fans. And then second, the overall effect of that negativity directed toward one player as it might manifest itself against the entire team, so in Castillo's case I think it probably did play a certain role. In the case of Perez, the performance just wasn't there to make it a close decision. The velocity was not there, the command was not there, the results were not there. It was not going to work out on a strictly baseball basis, so in that case we never really got to the point of actually considering fan sentiment, but we're aware of it of course.
Joe DeCaro (Mets Merized Online): I know your hands were tied this winter and you had practically no wiggle room in terms of new payroll. That said, you managed to sign some nice players in [Taylor] Buchholz, [Tim] Byrdak, [Chris] Young, [Chris] Capuano, a few others. As an optimistic Mets fan, I see this team strongly competing for at least a Wild Card this season. Would you still be financially restricted around the trade deadline or would you be able to add a big bat or a big pitcher if necessary as the sellers try to move their higher-priced players?
Sandy Alderson: I think if we're in the hunt the money will be there to add a player. Keeping in mind that by the time you get to the trade deadline you only have a couple of months left which means you're picking up a third to a half of a player's salary, and in discussions I've had internally, I expect that if we're there that we'll have the opportunity to do that.
Mike Silva (NY Baseball Digest): I wanted to follow up on a comment by Paul DePodesta in the Baseball Prospectus chat where he had said that the farm system, he felt after reviewing it hasn't been treated fairly from the reviews in the media. What's your take now that you've had a chance to see the farm system up close, and are there one or two kids that stand out, maybe not ones that have made the team but that stand out and that you're surprised from when you got first reports on them?
Sandy Alderson: I try not to assess the farm system against the opinions of others outside the organization. We have to make our own judgment. I do think that independent observation, independent publications are a nice way of measuring what we have, but at the same time I think you've got to make your own judgment. I think the reason that the farm system perhaps doesn't get as much credit as it should, is that number one, we've graduated several players now from the system as recently as last year, so if you look at [Josh] Thole, [Bobby] Parnell, [Ike] Davis, that's a very good rate of emerging players in one year or so. And we have some other players that are on the verge. [Jenrry] Mejia will be at Triple-A, Dillon Gee is somebody who pitched well last year, and I think further down we have a number of players, Cesar Puello, Wilmer Flores, those players tend to get high marks from the independent publications, but a guy who has looked very good so far this spring is our number one pick from last year, the right-handed pitcher [Matt] Harvey who has pitched very well, and of course didn't pitch at all last year, so overall I think we're reasonably happy with what we have, recognize that we need to be a little more aggressive and probably a little more successful in developing players out of the draft, to try to match the success we've had internationally.
Caryn Rose (MetsGrrl): The last time we talked there was some discussion about transparency and how it's important, and I wanted to get your thoughts apropos the first question regarding fan perception of Castillo. Do you have a sense of how much transparency is too much transparency? As soon as that came out, the backlash went all the other way, I felt. What is your thought process when you're thinking about what you're going to say?
Sandy Alderson: I do believe that, number one, that honesty is the best policy and that one needs to be as direct and candid as possible. I thought it would have been disingenuous to say that fan sentiment had not had any influence at all on the decision. I think that should have been patently obvious. With a new management team, et cetera, the whole notion of turning the page, et cetera, it was just too obvious a consideration. But, did that dictate our decision? No. Maybe I was trying to be too subtle about it or nuanced, but there are obviously things that we can't talk about at a particular moment but I do believe that you can try to be as straight-forward as you can and I thought that wasn't even close to the borderline.
Eric Simon (Alderson Avenue): Sandy, how do you approach spring training roster decisions, in the bullpen in particular, when you know the body of work will be exceedingly small and the quality of competition decidedly mixed? In other words, how important is spring training performance compared to past performance and other factors like that?
Sandy Alderson: I think that the career body of work is normally what gets a player into camp who is under consideration for the first time or who is going to be thrown into a competition, so I think you have to keep in mind the career numbers and trends, and strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, you do take into account what goes on during the course of spring training, in part it's the nature of competition and you hope that certain people will rise to that competition. You can't let spring games dictate the result entirely as you point out it's a small sample and anything can happen. I tend not to focus on the results in spring training, but rather other things like mechanics, individual character, you know, is there a reason to believe that a player is not pitching to past performance? Is there some reason that he's not going to hit this year versus his career, so I think you do balance those things, but you're right to point out that what goes on in spring training doesn't always dictate the final outcome on those roster spots. But we've got some very close competitions here, and that's a dilemma we have for example with our bullpen right now, trying to balance what we can reasonably expect based on history versus what we can reasonably expect or hope based on what we've seen over the last month.
Steve Keane (The Eddie Kranepool Society): Between the offseason and spring, it seems that there's a minority in the fan base and a majority of the mainstream media that likes to dwell on the negative things that go on with the organization. They seem not to want to talk about that the team offensively has been terrific this spring, it seems that batters have been taking to Dave Hudgens's way of hitting, a lot of walks, a lot of doubles, and the defense has been pretty good, too, maybe very good this spring, but the big thing is the pitching. The pitching has been outstanding this spring and hopefully it will carry over to the season. Now you spoke about the bullpen, and you do have decisions to make. How close is it in that seventh spot? It seems that we kind of figured the first six guys are in that pen, and that last spot, that seventh spot, seems to be the one that's up in the air. How are you going back and forth on that decision?
Sandy Alderson: That's a very good question. If you look at the guys who are competing for the last two or three spots. You've got a young kid, a Rule 5 pick who is untested, who has improved, we think, greatly since the beginning of camp, at least mechanically, has shown a lot of command, has shown good velocity, and we think has real upside. As compared to somebody like Jason Isringhausen, who is a veteran presence and not only because of what he can do on the mound but how he might influence the rest of that bullpen, is an attraction for us. Then you've got a couple of guys, [Blaine] Boyer, Manny Acosta, who are very, very close in terms of overall results, but they get there in different ways. Boyer is basically a ground ball pitcher. Acosta has the livelier fastball and is more of a strikeout guy, maybe a little more command, but occasionally gives up a three-run homer as he did yesterday. So not only is it a close competition, but interestingly, each of those guys represents a very different choice beyond how they perform, and that's what we're trying to balance right now is the desire to win, the feel-good story of somebody like Jason Isringhausen, who has also performed well, against the potential of somebody like Pedro Beato, and then the two guys that we brought in. And we haven't resolve those yet. We just had a meeting today with some of the front office people here with the coaches and Terry Collins and we resolved a few things but the bullpen is still unresolved.
Kerel Cooper (On The Black): I want to ask you about second base. Obviously Castillo is no longer here, Turner has been sent down, and it looks like maybe Emaus has the inside track on the position. Are you surprised that it has taken virtually the entire spring to figure out second base, or coming into the spring did you think that it would be a long, drawn-out process, and a decision would come at the end?
Sandy Alderson: No, it wasn’t as if we expected it would come at the end, although given the number of candidates that we had coming in, it was reasonable to expect that it probably would take a while. Whether or not somebody distinguished themselves, separated themselves from the rest of the competitors, I think it probably still would have gone later into spring training before we named someone. This gets back to the earlier question of balancing spring training performance against past history, and if you take a guy like Brad Emaus, there’s a history there - it’s a minor league history, except from spring training in 2009-2010 where he hit very well with the Blue Jays organization. I think in his particular case, it was a matter of waiting for him to show that he can do things, at least in spring training, that his prior history, his career, has indicated he would be able to do. In the case of Murphy, it was watching and seeing how his defense developed. Castillo was Castillo. Justin Turner was probably going to have to lap the field to get the job just because he had options remaining, and we have much more latitude and flexibility with him than others - keeping in mind that while our roster on Opening Day is important, it’s 162 games, it’s 6 months, and we need to have as much insurance as we possibly can. So for those who have options, they know they probably are at a slight disadvantage, or those on a minor league deal who don’t have an out know they’re at a slight disadvantage. I’m not surprised that it’s taken so long. I’m happy that over the past few days Brad Emaus has started to show offensively what he can do. He’s also begun to - he turns the double play very well, we’ve seen that. He may not have the range of some prototypical second basemen, but he’ll make the routine plays, and we think he’s going to fit pretty well for us. But we’ve kind of waited for that, to be able to see that. So I think what happens again with history, you try to wait to observe what you think you expect to see, and when it finally comes, there’s a certain amount of resolution. But sometimes it can take a while.
Shannon Shark (Mets Police): As you head forward and build a roster, I’m curious about just as a general manager, how non-baseball affects the crafting of a roster. When you’re looking at re-signing a player, do you factor in t-shirt sales, ticket sales, TV network, or how a player might fit into team history and legacy?
Sandy Alderson: I think yes to all of those possible factors. Again, they may not have significant weight, but they can come in to play. A couple examples would be Jason Isringhausen, who I’ve mentioned is competing for a spot in the bullpen, and oddly enough, someone like Chin-lung Hu. People have latched on to his name in the "who’s on first?" and all of those kinds of things. So he’s developed a little bit of a following and become part of the entertainment value of what the team represents. Now that’s not going to determine whether he makes the team or someone else does, but it’s a factor, I guess, of some small magnitude. In the case of Izzy, it’s a nice story. If it can work out, it’s great. I think it probably has some slight weight, but you try to make the best baseball decision, and it’s very seldom that all other things are equal and something of that nature, sort of a non-baseball nature, make a difference, but it does happen.
Ed Marcus (Real Dirty Mets): In regards to Emaus, how much of a factor as a Rule 5 draftee is being taken into consideration about his possibility of winning the second base job?
Sandy Alderson: Well I think it has a lot to do with it. If he were not a Rule 5 draftee, the decision wouldn’t have the immediacy that it does. If we don’t keep him we have to give him back. If he's not our starting second baseman I'm not sure he helps us. Two years ago we drafted somebody in San Diego, a shortstop named Cabrera, and I think he led the minor leagues in stolen bases that year, so we felt look, even if he’s not going to help us offensively or even defensively, that that plus tool he has might be able to help us in some way, it would be a legitimate reason for holding on to him. More typically, it’s a relief pitcher, but certainly his Rule 5 status comes into play. At least at the outset, you’re going to give him every opportunity. What we’re seeing over the last two or three days is a lot of Rule 5 picks being offered back. I would say there’s a very good possibility we’ll keep both of our Rule 5 picks. So Rule 5 status does come into play, absolutely.
Michael Donato (Optimistic Mets Fan): The last couple years there’s been a sort of feel that the GM hasn’t been as aggressive in making changes in what was done as the team was spiraling out of control, nothing was changing. So this year I’m curious how the second base job hasn’t been decided yet or those bullpen roles - how quick are you going to be to bring up one of the other guys that was real close and ended up in Buffalo. How much tinkering will you do throughout the season, not just around the trading deadline?
Sandy Alderson: Well I think that, first of all, you can be over-aggressive. If you go for a week, somebody’s not hitting, and you yank him and replace him with someone from Buffalo, there’s a real balance that has to be maintained. You have to have enough patience to give somebody an opportunity so they don’t feel as every game they play may be their last. The other thing is that you don’t have too many of those bullets to fire. To give you an example, in our bullpen, what’s interesting is right now we appear to have some depth because we have several guys that are competing for the last two or three spots, and it looks like we might have a couple of guys who might be surplus. The problem is that when you look at all of the roster considerations, who’s got options, who doesn’t, who has to be put through waivers, etc., all that depth disappears. So it’s conceivable that in our bullpen the only real depth we’ll have at Triple A when everything’s said and done, after we’ve made our choices, is somebody like Igarashi. It’s just the nature of deals that are made in the offseason. Second base is a little bit different for us. We’ve got quite a bit of protection. We’ll have Ruben Tejada, we’ll have Justin Turner, we’ve got plenty of protection. Chin-lung Hu could play there. So I think in that case, we’ve got a lot more backup support. But at the same time, once you make a decision going into the season, you do want to give people an opportunity to demonstrate that they can play and have to be careful about pulling the trigger too quickly and not giving somebody a chance to perform in a way that doesn’t feel as if they’re constantly under the gun.
Greg Prince (Faith And Fear In Flushing): I’m curious when we heard from you back in the fall, you definitely emphasized that you couldn’t make judgments on specific and overall direction because you were very new, kind of a stranger in a strange land. I wondered after a few months, after spending spring training with the team, how does the outsiderness, has that all worn off, does it feel like Sandy Alderson’s team to you, or is there still some getting used to the Met-ness of your life?
Sandy Alderson: There’s still a little bit of getting-used-to-it-ness, but I think by and large, it’s behind us. The nice thing about spring training is that it throws everybody into the same mix for a period of six weeks, particularly in a place like Port St. Lucie where there’s not a lot to do. Otherwise, the focus really is on baseball, and it does knit together an entire baseball staff. We’re down here every day with our major league staff, all of our trainers, PR people, but also the entire minor league staff. While I haven’t had the amount of exposure to our minor league staff as I will over the course of the season, I really think that we’ve had meetings, we’ve had talks. The major league hitting coach Dave Hudgens has taken out the hitting instructors from all the minor league affiliates, sort of cross-fertilization, if you will. I really think that we’re getting there. So I’m really pleased with the way things have come together. I thought they came together quite well in the offseason as we tried to acquire players to fill certain roles for us and the process that we followed and how I think everybody interacted with one another, I think that’s been reinforced here. I think that sense of newness and lack of history has largely been overcome.
Matthew Artus (Always Amazin'): Last season Jason Bay experienced a significant decline with is offense, especially when he was hitting for power, and this spring he’s not exactly tearing the cover off the ball with two extra-base hits and no home runs. I was curious if you have any concern about him rediscovering his power stroke or whether he’s just a work in progress in that department?
Sandy Alderson: In terms of his power, probably still a work in progress. In the offseason he worked with an old hitting coach of his from Pittsburgh, came into spring training with kind of a new setup at the plate, and recently canned that, went back to his old approach. In the meantime, though, while you’re right, there hasn't been a lot of power numbers this spring for him, he’s doing a couple things. One, he’s hitting quite well, a lot of singles as you indicated, but also his on-base percentage is quite high. From my standpoint, first priority is on-base percentage, second priority is the power. I’m certainly hopeful that will come back. I think most of us expect that he will adjust to Citi Field, and at least some of that power will come back. My biggest concern is making sure that he makes whatever contribution he can hitting-wise, and particularly on base, and when the power comes, it will come. I’m pleased with his approach at the plate over the past couple of weeks. I think he’s progressed quite well.
John Delcos (New York Mets Report): Regarding Jose Reyes, in particular what do you have to see from him to warrant giving him an extension? Considering his pending free agency, do you have to see this prior to the All Star break, and to what degree does the ownership issue have in giving him a long-term deal?
Sandy Alderson: That’s a compound question. First of all, what do I have to see? Well he’s obviously a very dynamic player, and it’s hard not to notice that just in the three or four weeks I’ve been here - very dynamic. I think he is working on a couple of things that have been discussed publicly. Speed is his game, but in order for that speed to work for him offensively, he’s got to be on base. I think he’s acknowledged that. If Jose Reyes had a .400 on-base percentage, I don’t know that anybody would be debating this, given what else he does. And I think that’s something that he’s going to be working on over the course of the season. We’ll see how that goes, but I know he wants to make a big impact on the Mets for a variety of reasons, and I do think he’s a tema player and feels strongly about the Mets so I think that’s one of his primary motivations. As far as mid-season is concerned, I think part of it depends on how he performs over the first half of the season and part of it depends on how we as a team perform, where we are at the deadline. If he performs well and the decision is to try to sign him, I don’t think it matters how the team performs. If the team is performing well, even if there were a decision not to re-sign him, I doubt that he would go anywhere. As far as the financials are concerned, financials have not had an impact yet on anything we’ve done, except for the fact that we had this payroll pretty fully committed before I came on board. But in terms of Madoff or anything else, none of that has really impacted any of the decisions we’ve made. But in the future, who knows? I would say this: given all the money we have coming off the books, even the kind of money one would anticipate Jose Reyes trying to get, we should have room to accommodate that, even there were a somewhat reduced payroll, which I’m not saying there will be, but even if there were there would be room to sign Jose Reyes. Might not be room to sign anybody else, but I don’t think it would preclude us signing Jose.
Joe Janish (Mets Today): With Carlos Beltran’s health a concern, there appears to be a possibility that the Mets may need to start the season with a different person in right field. You talked before about the small factor of fan appreciation, and there’s at least one person named Nick Evans that a lot of fans appreciate, and I’m wondering if he has a chance to make the team and who else might fall into a possibility of playing right field if Beltran can’t go at the beginning of the season.
Sandy Alderson: Nick Evans is certainly in the mix. Whether or not Carlos can go at the beginning of the season, I think Nick is in the mix to make the team. He’s at least one of two or three people for the last one or two spots. If Carlos is not available to start the season, I think there are a number of candidates to play out there. My guess is you’d end up with some sort of platoon situation among Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, and maybe Nick Evans, even Lucas Duda could be in that mix. But at this point, we haven’t given up on the notion that Carlos could be ready for Opening Day. We’ll see over the next two or three days if he’s able to maintain a very tight schedule to get him ready. But I think realistically, you’d end up with a platoon out there.