Yesterday afternoon, Sandy Alderson was on WFAN with Mike Francesa to discuss the future of the Mets. He dropped in for a couple of innings with SNY on Friday night, but his radio interview was significantly longer and went into more detail. A big thanks goes out to Alex S-K (@Sas5o) for transcribing the interview.
- The Mets have enough money to spend for the team to contend in the near future.
- The team will focus on maintaining pitching depth in Matt Harvey's absence and won't look to acquire an ace this winter.
- A decision needs to be made at first base since Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are only going to get more expensive.
Mike Francesa: All right Sandy, other than Terry did we make announcements about the rest of the staff or anybody else or just the manager?
Alderson: Yeah the rest of the staff is coming back as well so we’re complete about that.
Francesa: All right so everybody comes back. What would you say a day after the season ends; how would you describe the season in both good and bad terms?
Alderson: From a negative standpoint, obviously the won-lost record is nothing to write home about. We won 74 games, the same number we won last year, we’re certainly not happy with that, and well that level of success over the course of a season is just not acceptable long term. Additionally we didn’t play well at home, which you know is always a concern. Number one, most teams play better at home than on the road. Secondly, you’d like to play well in front of your own fans. And, you know, we had some players that under-performed or were inconsistent as well as some weaknesses that were exposed over time—in some cases from early in the season others somewhat later—but you know, on the positive side, we had a winning record on the road, we were actually a .500 club the last 100 games. We played, I think we were 50-50 or 49-49, something like that.
Over the last 100 or so we were a .500 club, which isn’t going to get you in the playoffs but is a far cry from being 14 or 15 under so you know I think that was a plus. I think we responded to some of the difficulties we had, we added some players from our minor league system over the course of the season. The pitching held up pretty well, the bullpen was better for most of the season than it had been. So I think there were a number of positives, but ultimately it’s about the won-lost record, and we didn’t play well the first couple months of the season and it was tough to dig out of that hole thereafter.
Francesa: Sandy I thought that one of the big keys to this season was making sure that you went into ‘14 with no question marks about Harvey, Wheeler, and d’Arnaud. We know Harvey and everything he accomplished beyond anybody’s expectations, now the injury, we know that. In your mind did the other two—Wheeler I’d say is pretty much a foregone conclusion we know he did—did d’Arnaud establish in your mind as a guy you can count on as a regular next year?
Alderson: Well d’Arnaud you know has been touted as on offensive catcher, and so aside from the fact that he just hasn’t played that much, I think coming in we assumed that he would hit fairly well and the catching maybe needed some additional work. Actually he caught really well, the pitchers took to him almost immediately, and that was a positive. Initially, at least, he certainly didn’t hit particularly well although if you look at his last, I want to say, 20 to 30 at bats, he only had 112, so you know the last quarter of his season he was hitting right at, maybe a little above .300. So look, we’ve got a number of areas we have to improve, but I think at this stage we’re locked into d’Arnaud, not financially, but that’s the commitment and I think we’re reasonably comfortable with that.
Francesa: Did you have in your mind have you made up your mind about guys you needed to make up your mind about? Have you made up your mind about Ike, and Duda, and Tejada or is there still some question marks and some things to be worked out with those three players?
Alderson: Well I think at first base you have to be honest with yourself and say look, I’m not sure we have learned everything that we need to about those two guys, but ultimately you have to make a decision, and sometimes you don’t have full information when you do. So going into next season we’ve got really three possibilities at first base: one of those two guys, neither of those two guys, or both of those guys, either at the major league level or the Triple-A level. We’re getting to the point where we have a sample large enough to try and make a choice. We’re also getting to the point where they’re not inexpensive, you know? Together next year they could cost four million dollars plus so we’re at the point where we need to try to make a decision. Another factor will be frankly the trade market, what is the market for a first basemen with potential, and power, and the potential to be better? These guys, Ike is not that old. So anyway we’re getting to the point where you can make a decision on those two guys or going into a different direction entirely.
Francesa: All right how about the shortstop, do you feel you have a shortstop? Can you put Tejada at shortstop and be comfortable or do you need to go out and look at a shortstop?
Alderson: Well I think the problem is that you can’t go into the season with three or four below average positions. You can get away with one, maybe you can get away with two if your pitching is really good and you’ve got the offense elsewhere and maybe they give you defense at average or above. You can’t go into the season with a bunch of positions that are below average.
So we assume going into the season that, let’s say center field, where we’re comfortable with Lagares defensively and his, not just comfortable but excited about what he brings defensively although you know his offense remains a question. Well okay, we can live with a guy who’s sub-average offensively at one position. Now you look at shortstop and, well you know, can we get by, you can’t get by with multiple positions that way so you know we’ve got to look at it that way and it’s not as easy as just saying well we’ve got to improve the shortshop position, we probably do. Can we go into the season with what we had last year? Well we got by with Quintanilla and Tejada and so forth, but that’s not what we’re trying to do next season so it’s definitely an area we have to look at.
Francesa: All right, you mentioned Lagares, den Dekker, any idea of platooning them in center field next year or do you want to see one of them win the job?
Alderson: Well right now I’d say Lagares is ahead of den Dekker. It’s hard to overlook the defense that Lagaras brought, even though den Dekker is known as a solid above-average defensive center fielder. den Dekker is always needed to make adjustments as he moves from level to level. He didn’t have a lot of time at Triple-A this year, he didn’t have a lot of time at any level because of the injury, so I’d say right now Lagares is very definitely ahead of him. And Lagares made some improvements offensively over the course of the season but regressed a bit the last month and just needs to be, he’s got to be a little more selective, he’s got to get into some hitter’s counts, and we strike out way too much and he’s another guy that does that.
Francesa: You broke records striking out this year, we’re talking with Sandy Alderson about the Mets going forward. Any other guys who were here late, did Matsuzaka with his excellent pitching as of late earn himself a chance to come back? Black is a guy, Hawkins pitched well, and I guess I should start with Parnell it sounds like with the situation he’s in, he doesn’t sound like he might be ready on opening day, huh? It sounds like he’s got a lot of work to do just to get healthy again, huh?
Alderson: Well he does have a lot of work to do. I don’t think that it’s going to relate specifically to his injury I think it’s going to relate more to putting weight back on and getting physically fit. I don’t know that the injury is going to be the deterrent as much as his overall conditioning, but it certainly has to put a question going in your mind next season. The comfort I have, though, is that we used several guys in that closing role. We started the season Francisco was going to be the closer he never made it out of spring training, Parnell got the job, he got hurt. Hawkins did a very nice job for us so what I’m hoping is not so much that we have to settle on a closer, and that’s critical for us, but to me is more critical is having the depth of arms in the bullpen that will allow us to respond to injuries and those kind of things and we just haven't had those arms because we haven’t had them coming through the system. We’ve had to rely on guys we bring in as minor league free agents. If you look at the number of minor league free agents we brought in last year just for the bullpen—you know we had Torres, Rice, Burke was a guy we brought in as a minor league free agent, Hawkins was a minor league free agent, Atchison was a minor league free agent—we actually did okay in the guys that we brought in but we need to have more depth in the system and I think we’re starting to get that. But Vic Black helped us out, that acquisition. I’m hoping Jeff Walters who pitched Double-A for the most part last year will be a help. We just have to have more contributions from the system, and the pitching is just getting to the point where it can help us at the major league level.
Francesa: Putting the pitching aside for a second Sandy how many guys do you have in that starting lineup that you feel very comfortable about, that they’re blocks you can build on? Do you see it as Murphy, Wright, the catcher and the center fielder and you’ll build around those four? Are those the guys, or do you have more than that right now?
Alderson: Well if you were to say who are the guys, who are the position players who are championship caliber…
Francesa: That you can, you’re happy with for next year.
Alderson: Happy with, assuming that we’re going to, we’re looking for a much better winning record.
Francesa: Right, right.
Alderson: Well the only guy, honestly, the only guy that I would put in that category right now is David.
Francesa: Well that’s not realistic you’re going to change every position, so with that being the case I mean can you say that d’Arnaud will be there, and Murphy will be there, and Lagares will be there is that reasonable?
Alderson: Yeah I think those are all very likely circumstances, yeah. Your original question was…
Francesa: How many are top level? Only one, right, okay. But I mean you’re okay with Murphy if you have Murphy at second base you can live with that right? If you had a 90 win team or an 88 win team, he could be your second basemen.
Alderson: Yeah, I think that’s right. There are things that—Murph is outstanding in many ways, he’s the only guy really who played a full season, was among the league leaders in hits and what have you—but the on base needs to be higher if he’s going to hit second. It would be nice if his slugging were a little higher, he’s got an OPS of seven-and-a-quarter, you know that’s not elite status so and then there’s the defense to take into account and you know he’s not a league leader in that category.
Francesa: No he doesn’t turn a good double play but otherwise he’s okay. He’s decent, he’s workmanlike he just doesn’t turn a great double play.
Alderson: The great thing about Murph is he plays hard every day, he’s a great teammate. He hits well at Citi Field, which is not a given for a lot of our guys.
Francesa: And he hits in the clutch.
Alderson: There are a lot of plusses there and certainly he could be a member of a championship team absolutely.
Francesa: So when you look at this right now, and next year we’re going on the premise that you really want to make a elevated jump next where you want to, you hope to contend next year, right?
Francesa: Okay, with that being the case, how many serious guys do you have to acquire in the lineup in trade and in either free agency? Is it two? Is it three? Is it four? What do you look at? Do you have a number?
Alderson: Well, the first thing, we’re actually going down to Florida to start our meetings and so you know some of those issues will be addressed in the next couple days and then the ensuing days and weeks. But I think the first thing you have to do, Mike, I have to do is so okay what is our jumping off point? You know what is our platform here from which we need to improve? And one of the things that is easy to miss is the fact that we played pretty good baseball the last three months of the season. The last 100 games we were 50-50, so we played .500 ball for two thirds of the season almost.
Francesa: And very good on the road, winning record.
Alderson: Yeah so that’s a pretty good place to start. Playing .500 baseball is not going to get you in the postseason but it’s not like the last couple years where we’ve tailed off. I think the big difference between the last couple years and this year is that about the time the team would start to tail off in recent years, we got an influx of players, we didn’t have an outflow. So we had, you go back to those 100 games, the first of those games was the 16th of June I think that’s the first game that E.Y. Jr. played for us. The third and fourth game were that Super Tuesday where Harvey and Wheeler both won games in a doubleheader in Atlanta. So the platform from my standpoint is not that bad. We’ve got a decent place from which to start, but it’s about improving the team as a whole and not any one position, and we have to look at it that way. I mean it’s conceivable—and again I’m not saying we’re going to do this or not do this—the money that we have to spend you could a majority of it on one player, you could spread it around; there are a variety of ways to do it.
Francesa: Do the Cleveland Indians interest you in how they did this or were they fortunate in some way because when you look at them they don’t have a star anything? They don’t have a star closer, they don’t have a star starter, they don’t have a star in the lineup. I mean, that’s an interesting team when you think about it. I mean, they won 90 games, they finished red hot against a weak schedule, and they won fifteen of their last seventeen games. They won 92 games, but they don’t have any stars anywhere on that team.
Alderson: Well, two things that jump out at me, and I’m not a close observer of what they’ve done over the last three or four weeks, but as a whole, number one they signed two free agents. They signed Swisher and they signed Bourn. Together those two guys probably cost them 30 million bucks per season, roughly. And even though there are people who say, ‘oh Bourn didn’t have a great year,’ you know, he gave them the defense they were looking for in center field, Swisher had a decent season. But the other thing that happened is that they really came out of nowhere with pitching.
Francesa: Yep, they reclamated some guys.
Alderson: Yeah I mean that Kazmir pitched great for them, I don’t think they could’ve reasonably expected that.
Alderson: Kluber has come through their system, which is a developmental project but has done a nice job. Jimenez...
Francesa: Jimenez, yep.
Alderson: You know had a season that he hasn’t had in some time so you know you do have to get fortunately from time to time but look they made the investment and they’re probably in terms of how they’re put together and their progression from last year to this year, probably closer to our situation than...
Francesa: Than Boston, well Boston had some really good players that just bounced back too.
Alderson: Plus they spent a lot of money. They spent just to add to their payroll this year, they spent almost 70 million dollars. Now, they had a lot of capacity because they got rid of Crawford, Gonzalez, and a whole host of people. But they invested pretty heavily, and it’s paid off for them which is great, but I would say just given where we are and you know the capacity, the payroll flexibility we have a team like as you point out, a team like Cleveland is probably a little more constructive than a team like Boston.
Francesa: Do you have to dabble because of the Harvey injury in starting pitching in a real way, which is very expensive, or can you stay away from that either find a reclamation or two as veterans and go that route, or do you have to go a little more serious and allocate some of your financial assets towards a starter?
Alderson: I think what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to make sure we have enough pitching depth. I’m not sure we need to go out—in fact, I don’t think we will go out and try to find a number one starter.
Francesa: No but I mean even a guy who’s a veteran .500 guy is expensive.
Francesa: If he’s an innings eater, if he’s a 200-inning guy if he’s got a winning record he cost a good amount of money.
Alderson: Right. Well I think you have to really assess the market. So for example, Matsuzaka pitched pretty well for us after he got going.
Francesa: He did, after the first two starts he pitched very well.
Alderson: Yeah, so what’s he going to cost? I have no idea (laughs).
Francesa: Nor do I. Or Harang as a guy like that you know.
Alderson: Look at a guy we signed to a minor league deal last year, Carlos Torres pitched pretty well for us too.
Francesa: Well look what a Liriano did this year or a Kazmir did this year out of nowhere, I mean look at guys like that, you know?
Alderson: The thing it would be nice to get away from Mike if we can is the guy coming back off an injury you know who may get injured again, is taking a risk. So you’re taking a risk on performance and health. At this point, taking a risk on health, unless it’s a very low level low cost risk, that’s why a guy like Matsuzaka is attractive to me.
Francesa: Would you invite Santana back if it didn’t cost much?
Alderson: I think that’s a possibility, yeah, I don’t really know what Johan is thinking. We’ll talk to him I’m sure over the next couple weeks, but I think he wants to pitch.But again, we’ll just have to see what the market is for these guys and how much of our resources we want to allocate to somebody coming off injury or someone you hope is able to pitch for you at a higher level.
Francesa: You are a pitching rich organization, we’re talking with Sandy Alderson on the day after. Does the Harvey injury preclude you from putting a young pitching stud or prospect in a deal for some power? Is that now out and you have to go free agent, or is that still a possibility?
Alderson: I think it’s still a possibility, but I do think you have to be a little more careful about it with Harvey out because as it stands right now, we’ve got three guys going into spring training as we sit here today three guys you can count on. Niese, Wheeler, and Gee. Now you’ve got Meija, Montero, DeGrom, Torres, but to get through a season given our recent history you’ve got to be eight, nine.
Francesa: Eight deep, right?
Alderson: I mean look what happened this year, we were eight deep and we ended up having to sign Matsuzaka and Harang in the last month of the season just to get through.
Francesa: Is it fair to say we’re going to see at least a bonafide power hitter somewhere else in this lineup who’s a proven commodity next year?
Alderson: Well fortuitously we ended up with that kind of guy this year with Marlon Byrd. I think definitely we have to replace that production, but we’ve got to go beyond that. So that’s certainly something we’ll look at very strongly, but other clubs are looking for the same thing.
Francesa: Do you have, I mean a lot of people wonder that big question of how much of the money that has come off the books will the team be able to spend. Are you fairly comfortable you’ll have what you need to get the job done available to you without giving us what the exact number is?
Alderson: I think we’re going to have enough available to make significant improvements, no question about that. If you go back and look what we actually spend on free agents over the past three years it’s been not minimal but modest. Last year, for example, just on free agents I think we only spent about five million bucks and most of that was tied up in Marcum. Now that’s not minor league deals that may have turned into a million dollar base major league deal, but just major league free agents. So certainly compared to that we’re going to have significantly improved resources. But I expect that we will have plenty to work with, and we’ll just have to see how the offseason goes.
Francesa: Is it possible that this team can go from 74 to 88 wins without Harvey?
Alderson: I think that’s conceivable. I think the reason it is is because of what I said earlier. We won 50 of the last 100 without David Wright for a good part of that time, without Jonathon Niese for a good part of that time, without Bobby Parnell for a good part of that time, without Matt Harvey for a good part of that time. So yeah, I think it’s conceivable that even without Matt Harvey we can do that. Ironically, as well as Matt pitched, unfortunately we didn’t win that many of his games.
Francesa: No that was very strange, almost freakish how many of them you didn’t win.
Alderson: Yeah, and of course that you wouldn’t expect if he continued to pitch at that level of excellence, that that would continue, but unfortunately that was the situation this year.
Francesa: No question. So the word for the Met fan is what in a word as you go down to your meetings? He should expect what, an aggressive offseason?
Alderson: Well we’re going to be aggressive, and we’re going to play the market and see what’s there, and I think an important thing to keep in mind is that we’ve gone through the last three years trying to clear payroll, trying to acquire and develop talent, and win games but without sacrificing the longer term view. I think now we’re entering a new phase where short term becomes somewhat, not overwhelmingly, but somewhat more important than the long term and that’s how we’re going to go at it.
Francesa: The future is now.