Sandy Alderson joined Mike Francesa for another interview this afternoon on WFAN to discuss the rest of this season, the team's short- and long-term future, and the futures of Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Lucas Duda. Here's the full transcript.
Mike Francesa: Sandy welcome how are you?
Sandy Alderson: I’m doing well. Thanks.
MF: Now that you’ve had a couple of days to absorb this shock to the system, how much does the Harvey news impact your planning regarding where you were and where you are and where you’re headed.
SA: Well, it does have an impact, but I don’t think it’s as significant as some people believe, at least in terms of our planning. Obviously, he’s a top-of-the-rotation guy heading into next season. We’ve got some money to spend. I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of it on starting pitching because of the depth that we have currently at the major league level and in the minor league system. But given the fact that we’ve lost our number one guy, it probably means that we’re going to have to look for an additional veteran presence in that starting rotation. That would be a short-term modification to what we’re doing. In term of the overall impact, psychologically it was big, and it will also have an effect on the field. But we have to accept it, absorb it, and move on and try to get better regardless.
MF: The plan for Harvey: This can be easy or something that leads to great debate. How can you make a decision and when will there be a decision on whether he tries to go through rest and rehabilitation or whether he goes for surgery.
SA: What is going to happen is that in the next week or two weeks we’re going to make a decision. Either he’s going to have surgery or he won’t. If he doesn’t have it initially, then it becomes an ongoing proposition because at any point in his rehab there can be a setback, there can be a reconsideration, etc. And that would be true up until he begins throwing competitively next season. But the decision will be made over the next couple of weeks, certainly by the end of September, and that will be a function of more information from our own doctors, probably a second opinion from a doctor like Jim Andrews down in Alabama, and then a joint discussion given all of the information we will have at that point.
MF: Obviously, he’s very important to you as an asset. He’s also a person who has his own health. How much is the player in control of his own situation here?
SA: I think he’s got most of the control. It’s his body, and he ultimately decides what’s in his best interest. All we can do is advise and recommend.
MF: He has the final say on whether he gets cut or not?
SA: I think realistically that’s the case.
MF: That’s good to know, because you could wind up with some debate. There’s been talk that Hallady had given him some information. I’m sure a lot of people are going to fill his head with a lot of different things. I’m sure it’s a very tough time for him and his family. His future is obviously very important to you guys. I could see where it could lead to quite a debate.
SA: Yeah that could happen. There’s always going to be anecdotal evidence one way or the other. Someone who got by without surgery versus other people who got by without surgery, ended up having it, and lost additional time as a result. Ultimately, I think it’s going to be less about anecdotes and more about medical expertise. What will be evaluated by physicians is the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the timing of recovery. All of those things that’s been debated in the press we’ll have to revisit over the next two or three weeks.
MF: Here’s what I think the fan feels and what I want to get your thoughts on: There was starting to be some real optimism, there was starting to be this idea that hey this team is putting the pieces together. "Wheeler looks good, Harvey looks great, d’Arnaud’s here, Lagares is playing well. Wow, now we can just put the pieces in and really start to contend." Then the shock to the system and there’s been a lot said about how this derails the Mets for ’14. Now it’s "they can’t contend in ’14." You know he’s either going to be out a while or a question mark going into ’14, your best pitcher. Does it derail you from contention? Do you look at it that way or does it not alter your overall plans for 2014?
SA: I go back to mid-June. We hadn’t been playing very well. We just demoted Ike Davis and Tejada to Las Vegas. The response from the media and fans to some extent was "The plan has gone off track. These guys have been demoted, the team is not playing well, things are taking longer than they were supposed to." And there was this doom and gloom sense surrounding the team, and to some extent I felt similarly.
But look, a month and a half, two months later the team is playing better, the young players have arrived and have begun to perform, Wheeler’s pitched great, etc. And there was an entirely different mind set about the team. Then, of course, we had the injury to Harvey and we’re back into the same sort of despondency. My point is, this is periodic. Negative things are going to happen from time to time. That doesn’t mean the plan changes. It doesn’t mean that the plan is a bunch of bologna. What it means is, these things happen in baseball, and we have to accommodate within our basic approach for the future the fact that these things do happen and they are set backs. But they don’t have to be terminal. They’re going to require adjustment.
Now, we had a lot of adjustments to make in our starting pitching this year. We’re at the point now where we’re running someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka out, which hasn’t been pretty, and which might not be pretty for the rest of the month. We signed Aaron Harang to fill another spot. We got to that point this season, not only because of injuries but also because of some innings caps on our young pitchers, and that’s just something we have to do. But I do believe -- given what people have seen and the way the team has played since mid-June or so -- that the basic storyline for this season has already been written.
MF: I would agree for sure. I think the question is how much the injury to Harvey took the heart out of everybody including the fan base. Because he had become along with David, the face of this franchise very quickly. He was the pride of this organization, and now he’s on the shelf, which I think hit everybody, I’m sure, like a ton of bricks.
SA: I understand that, and it hit everybody around here in a similar fashion. But once it happened, we have to absorb it, we have to accept it, and we have to move on. I do believe what’s happened since the injury is that, for example, Zack Wheeler has pitched much better than I think most people expected…
MF: He’s been terrific, and Gee and Niese have been very good. They look like they belong in someone’s rotation for sure next year. They’ve been very good.
SA: I told Dillon after his last game: I said, "Remember what I told you two months ago: The other guys are getting the headlines, and you’re getting the wins." And that’s exactly what’s continued. So I think there’s lots of reasons for optimism. The Harvey injury was a shock to the system; there’s no question about that. That’s why we have white blood cells.
MF: And it’s been tough because you’ve been down the stretch here without Wright, without Parnell. You did move Byrd, which I think people took as you just throwing your arms up and saying "Aw heck. Why should have have him here?" But the Byrd deal was already being discussed before Harvey got hurt, right?
SA: That’s right, and we looked at it at the trade deadline in July, didn’t like what we had been offered, and we were fortunate the second time around. Because at the end of July you have 29 teams that might have an interest, and when you have a waiver claim, you’re really only talking to one team. From that standpoint, we were very happy with what we got. It was much more than what we could have gotten at the end of July. We got a good young prospect and someone who might help us in the bullpen more immediately, so that was a deal we made regardless of what ended up happening to Harvey.
MF: Sandy, Ike’s now hurt. Tejada’s had an almost invisisble season. Can you make fair assessments on their future and where they are with you off what you’ve gotten from these three guys (Ike, Duda, and Tejada). Can you go into the winter with certainly about where you are with these three players?
SA: Well, let me look at Ike and Duda first. I actually think the injury with Ike might make it easier for us to make a decision going into the offseason. Because it’s going to give Duda substantially more playing time in September. I’m not sure what Ike was going to do in September that might have changed the evaluation.
MF: How do you feel about Ike now?
SA: There’s some positives. Since he’s come back, he’s had a very high on-base percentage. His batting average has been fine. He hasn’t shown any power. Has he given up the power to get the batting average and the on-base percentage up a little bit? I don’t know. My hope had been that becoming a little more selective at the plate, which may have led to being a little more cautious or being a little more tentative at the plate, would eventually lead to the power coming back once he got his confidence back. So I think there are reasons to believe that Ike was heading in the right direction.
MF: So let’s get to Duda and Tejada…
SA: Well, Duda has notwithstanding a .235 batting average, but I think when he got hurt he had the second-best OPS on the team. So he’d been doing something right, not that he was the middle-of-the-order guy that we’d all love to have. But I think he still has that potential. I think he showed the other day that he can hit left-handed pitching probably a little better than Ike has in the past. So I think it’s going to be, if you want to look at the half-full analogy, that getting to see Duda a little more at first base over the next month is a little bit of a positive.
MF: The idea is that Tejada is deep in the dog house. Is that fair?
SA: I don’t think that’s the case at the moment. He’s gone down there, he’s played pretty well. In fact, very well recently. His batting average is up close to .300. You know, one of the problems with Ruben is, it’s like pulling teeth. Extra batting practice, extra this, extra that, doesn’t happen unless someone else is insisting on it. And that’s what we need to see. We need to see a commitment to improvement. And he’s very young, he got to the big leagues at an early age. He was essentially given a regular position at an early age. And now he’s been put in the position where he’s going to have to earn it, so we’ll see what he does when he comes back up. At the moment, we were thinking of bringing him back up the first of September, but given the fact that Las Vegas is in the playoffs, it’ll be tough for us. We decided to leave him there, and Justin Turner’s done a decent job for us, substituting for Omar, giving him a little blow occasionally. We’ll see Ruben, hopefully in a week or so.
MF: Has Young showed you enough that he’s in your plans for next year? He has given the team athleticism. He has been a catalyst at the top. Have you seen enough that he’s in your plans?
SA: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. He has given us something that we hadn’t had before, some speed on the bases. He’s done a decent job of getting on base out of the leadoff spot. He’s played better defense in left field, certainly, than we had had before. Whether he’s an every-day guy in left field, may depend on two things. It depends on what else we come up with and it also depends on how we project him hitting left-handed and right-handed. Ideally, we’d like a little more power out of that spot, but we’ll see what we come up with in the outfield going into next season. But he’s certainly in our top five [outfielders] going into spring training.
MF: And how about Lagares? Do you consider Lagares to be a guy who is part of your future?
SA: I have to think so. He’s just so accomplished defensively and he has been improving offensively. He can be frustrating at times because he can chase a lot of pitches, but he’s chasing far fewer now than he was before. His defensive ability has been so critical to the way we’ve played over the past couple of months, that it’s hard to overlook that.
MF: Let’s figure that you can’t pencil Harvey in for next year with any certainty at all. It will probably make you go out and add one, but you do have a lot of pitching in the pipeline. Do you want to bring along those guys at the same pace? Is there somebody that you can maybe escalate at a quicker pace? Does it make you look at those guys as possibilities, or do you want to leave those guys alone because of what you saw happen to Harvey?
SA: Ideally going into next season, if Harvey had not been injured, you’d be looking at Harvey, Gee, Niese, Wheeler as a solid four. Maybe looking for someone to fill one of the five spots. And then all of the potential we have in Montero, deGrom, just as two guys who are fairly close, together with Syndergaard (who’s not that far away), we felt that we had the type of depth that would get you down to eight or nine as possible starters sometime during next season. With Harvey out of the picture, you’re down one, but you’re down one at the top, which probably means that we’ve got to go out and get somebody else for the rotation, and then hope someone can step up, even deGrom or Montero out of Spring Training. But we are very happy with where our depth is. Now, the next question would be, "Do you have so much depth that you can make a deal?" Well, maybe.
MF: You don’t really want to trade pitching unless you have to. I understand. But do you trade pitching for a little power, which is something that you’ve obviously thought about in the past before Harvey got hurt? Does it curtail those plans because of the Harvey injury?
SA: I think it circumscribes those plans a little bit. Obviously the pitching’s not as deep, because we need to go down one or two more to ensure we have what we need. But there are a lot of ways to approach it. Last year, we had that whole Justin Upton thing where we said we’re not going to trade Harvey or Wheeler. And we end up getting Marlon Byrd, who ends up being as productive as Upton. You’re not going to get that lucky all the time, but there’s more than one way to approach this, and we just have to be aware of the opportunities, and at this point I’m not sure what all the opportunities will be.
MF: One thing everyone wanted from the Mets was for this to be a team that didn’t give away September. There’s been a lot that’s gone wrong here. Wright, and Ike, and Parnell, and now Harvey. You’re going to shut down Wheeler. You’re going to bring in guys to just finish the month. It’s going to be hard to judge the manager and the coaching staff in any serious way. Have you seen everything you need to see as far as the Terry Collins candidacy goes? Where does he stand right now?
SA: We’ve seen everything but the finish. The finish is not going to be difficult to assess, but it’s going to require a different sort of assessment. Yesterday aside, because one day out of every five, it’s going to be ugly, or it could be ugly. But with Niese, and Gee, and Wheeler in the rotation…
MF: How much more of Wheeler are we going to see?
SA: Not much, which is another reason why we signed Harang. Putting that aside, that occasional rough day, the team is fun to watch. I look forward to watching d’Arnaud hit, I look forward to seeing Lagares. I look forward to seeing EY play. I look forward to seeing David back if we get him. There are a lot of positive things going on, and I think interesting things to watch.
MF: Have you gotten out of this year what you hoped to get out of this year. Which I said at the start, you have to get the development of Harvey, Wheeler, d’Arnaud. We got two out of three. Harvey turned into a sensation, Wheeler’s been better than expected. d’Arnaud I don’t see enough, but he looks like a keeper. He looks like he knows what he’s doing with the way he carries himself. That has been established, which I thought was the key to the season. What throws it off a little bit is Harvey’s future. Although Tommy John has become the sort of thing where you can at least expect realistic returns down the line. But, if that was the plan, you did get what you needed to get out of this season.
SA: I think more or less. The one thing that we can’t afford going into the future is a period of a month or two months of adjustment. If you look at the first couple of months of this season, we sort of threw a lot of guys… the bullpen improved substantially, the outfield defense improved substantially, the rotation got much better. But it took us two months to get to that point. We can’t do that every year. Am I happy with the way we’ve played since the middle of June? Yeah, and I think it portends good things for the future, but we’ve got to be better from the get-go and then accelerate from there. I think that the one thing that was a difference this year is that we started to see the influx of young players in the middle of the year, which gave us a little more energy, a little more momentum and a little more excitement for our fans. That’s why the storyline has sort of been written at this point. And September, unless we don’t show up for the next three weeks, will be interesting, because most of the young players are here already. The other story is that the minor league system has done so well this year, and not just on a collective standpoint with teams winning division titles. By and large, the players have continued to improve, and we’ve got some more that are knocking on the door.
MF: Will we know the status of the manager before the end of the season, or is that something that you’re going to hold for the end of the season?
SA: It’s very possible we’ll hold it until the end of the season. Partly because that’s what we said we were going to do, and at this point I don’t see any reason to vary from that.
MF: What’s been the fallout from the Harvey thing that you’ve had the most trouble with. There’s been a lot written, a lot of emotional stuff written and talked about. Set the record straight: Where do you think the Mets are versus what you’ve heard and read and seen the last couple of weeks since Harvey’s devastating injury?
SA: The sky has not fallen. I think we’re still in a very good position going into next season.
MF: You think you can contend without him?
SA: I think we can if we make the right decisions and are able to strengthen ourselves in other areas. Yes, I think we definitely can. It’s not going to be easier, but yeah, absolutely I do. We’re talking about three guys in Gee, Niese, and Wheeler who pitched really well the past month. There’s no guarantee that these guys are going to pitch great next year, that’s the thing about baseball. It’s not a staircase to heaven.
MF: But you just lost one of the best pitchers in baseball for 2014. That’s a rough blow for any team.
SA: I don’t disagree, but I think we’re fortunate that we have other young players that are coming. I think we’re fortunate that we have more payroll flexibility, and those two things make me optimistic about next season.
MF: When will we get word on what will be the gameplan for Harvey? Will it be a month out from here? Because obviously there’s going to be great speculation and people are going to be antsy to find out what his plan is because he’s such a valuable part of your future. Can you put a timetable on it?
SA: By this time next month, we ought to know.
MF: Whether it’s rest or surgery?
MF: Okay. Thanks for you time, I appreciate it.
SA: Thanks, take care.