Yesterday afternoon, Mets GM Sandy Alderson called in to the Joe & Evan Show on WFAN to talk about the R.A. Dickey trade, David Wright, Collin Cowgill, and more. This is a transcript of that interview; you can listen to the interview at WFAN.
Evan: Let me thank you, because not that you need my approval, but I thought this was a great trade. I’m very, very happy as a Met fan. So I want to start off with, Are you surprised that you were able to get this much back, and they’re still prospects, we have to see how they’ll turn out to be, that you were able to get this much value back for a 38 year old – a Cy Young winner – in R.A. Dickey?
Alderson: Well look, I’m never surprised at how little I seem to be able to get, or in some cases how much. So, it just is a question of market dynamics and what one club may be willing to do. In some ways it’s like being an agent, a representative, for a free agent – you never know, but you have to be patient in order to find out. And I think that’s probably the key ingredient. In this particular case, it got a little uncomfortable because to be fair to R.A. — to be bandied about and talked about for the length of time that he was — he was really extremely patient with us, and enabled us to take a little more time. Ultimately, I wasn’t surprised, but we’re very happy with the deal and I hope R.A. is in a better place for him short-term as well.
Joe: Sandy, I’d heard some rumblings that there was maybe people in management who weren’t that thrilled with R.A. Dickey — is there anything to that? And did that have anything to do with the trade?
Alderson: There’s nothing to that. And it had nothing to do with the trade. I can remember, frankly, having a conversation with R.A. in the middle of last season, after the book had come out and he was pitching so well and there were a lot of things going on, and reminded him that he was a ball player. But he didn’t reminding, and he handled it extraordinary well over the second half of the season. What some people may consider distractions — to the extent they might have been — he handled them very well. He was doing some things in the off season as he has done – he is going to India this year – but he’s always shown the ability to handle those things. So from my standpoint I was confident he’d continue to be able to do that.
Evan: Were you guys bothered that he talked about the contract at the Christmas party?
Alderson: We were a little surprised by it, but R.A. had handled everything — the delays, the fact that we had negotiated successfully with David Wright, and were in the process of negotiating with R.A., it wasn’t going as well quickly as he would have wanted and we got to the point that we were close to the winter meetings and felt we should at least explore the trade market. And all during that time he was very patient, said all the right things. I think he was caught a little off guard at the holiday party. He wasn’t expecting even to be there. We invited him when we found out he was going to be in New York the same day. So it was all arranged pretty quickly. From my standpoint, I give R.A. a pass on all that because overall he was extremely gracious and patient, so the holiday party was a blip on the screen.
Evan: Were you guys close to trading R.A. Dickey elsewhere before this Toronto deal came about?
Alderson: We had talked to a lot of other clubs. The other clubs to that point had not met our price. We had actually starting talking with Toronto before the winter meetings, I thought they might be in a situation to do something preemptively. They backed off. We had typical conversations with lots of teams during the winter meetings. In a meeting a team will drop a name and you’ll get excited, and then in the next meeting the name’s not on the table any longer. So there was that kind of in and out, but nobody had met our price to that point. Would they have later? Very possibly. But we felt comfortable with the Toronto deal and had some reservation as to whether he would go there or not, but that proved not to be an issue. He wants to be with a contender, he will be, and that all worked out.
Joe: d’Arnaud- when can we expect to see him, Sandy? Will we see him with the big team this year?
Alderson: You’ll see him February 10.Even before Opening Day you’re going to see him. Let’s just see what happens. I told Travis himself, let’s go to spring training and see what happens. We got a very capable guy in John Buck, somebody who will be with us and will either handle most of the catching or be a mentor to Travis at the major league level until Travis — eventually, potentially — establishes himself as an everyday guy and is with us full time. So I just don’t know.
Evan: But wait a second, let me ask you this: don’t you know – and it’s smart, even though it’s going to be frustrating – that if you call him up right away and he’s the opening day catcher, you lose the opportunity to keep him longer as far as service time is concerned? And if you call him up after May 1st, you could get an extra year out of him. So if that’s the case, and correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t it pretty much a foregone conclusion that he won’t be here in the month of April?
Alderson: Well if you’re asking if me whether I know all that, yes. But look, there are other baseball reasons that may come into play as well. And one of them is the fact that he hasn’t played since the middle of last season, and, while spring training will give us a good since of where he is, that will also come into play.
Evan: But is there a way – let me just say this: let’s say he goes into camp, and he starts tearing it up, and I’m going to tell you right now, you’re going to hear from Joe and a lot of other people who are going to be like "Bro, let the guy play!" Is there a scenario where he is the opening day catcher if he does look healthy and is hitting come spring training?
Alderson: Yea, I think there’s a scenario. Let’s take, for example, that John Buck is hurt, that Anthony Recker is hurt, et cetera, et cetera. Certainly there is a scenario. Is it likely? I don’t know, let’s wait and see. I think we have him in a situation that I think is similar to, in some ways, the situation Matt Harvey faced last year, similar in some ways to the situation Zack Wheeler faces this year. Ideally, would we like him to get a little more seasoning, a little more time, et cetera, et cetera? Probably, but, let’s see how he plays. I know he doesn’t want to go back to Las Vegas. He played there last year, and by the way the people in Las Vegas with whom we met earlier this offseason just raved about Travis, so it looks like we have a good one.
Joe: Sandy, the outfield. Let’s be honest, there’s really no major league outfielders on this team right now. And I know you guys are not going to go out and bring in a Michael Bourn or Swisher as free agents, what about the outfield this year?
Alderson: Well my answer to every question is "Travis d’Arnaud."
Well you probably saw we traded for Collin Cowgill this morning. (Evan: Yes, former Diamondback.) So that didn’t set off any seismographic equipment in your office, but we like him as a player. We are looking at our outfield. We know have holes there and that we have to address it, and we’re in the process of doing that. Nothing related to the Dickey trade has hindered us in that regard, because there were no outfielders involved. And as a result we’ve been able to focus on that throughout. So we’ve certainly got our eye on the outfield.
Evan: Going back to the David Wright thing, did you guys — and I know you’re probably not going to use the word rebuild, but I think you are rebuilding and I think it’s the wise thing to do, you get d’Arnaud, you get the pitcher, you get the outfield who may be five years away, but you’re definitely infusing talent — was there ever a serious thought, even though you would get a big backlash for it, of trading David Wright? Of trying to restock the system even more, by getting three or four young guys. Was that a serious consideration before you guys signed him?
Alderson: Well I don’t think it was a serious consideration, but it was an option. One of the things that’s really important in the course of any negotiation is knowing what your alternatives are. Otherwise, they gotcha. So, look, we got into the negotiations with David and his representatives and I think at some point we became very comfortable that we were going to work out a reasonable deal. And so the reality of a possible trade never really intruded. But you always have to know what your options are. And in RA’s case, knowing that he had one year left — okay, that’s comforting to an extent — but we saw what happened in other cases where players have a year to go and it’s difficult to realize value on players in that situation. So we had to consider it only as a fallback option, but any time you’re negotiating with a party you’ve got to know what your options are.
Joe: With Dickey gone, what do you envision the Opening Day starting rotation for this team?
Alderson: Well, we’ve got Santana and Niese from the left side, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, and right now there’s an opening. And I would say, internally, we’ve got candidates: Hefner, Mejia, McHugh are three. Zack Wheeler is somewhere in that queue. But, I think we will be looking for someone that can perhaps step into that slot, and we’re at least going to look, and expect that we may be able to find somebody. We’re certainly not going be able to find a Cy Young winner. But if we can find someone who can win 10-12 games for us, that would be acceptable tradeoff, I think.
Joe: But you mention Wheeler, are you telling me it’s possible Zack Wheeler could be in the rotation from the get-go next year?
Alderson: Well, no. I mentioned him eighth on that list.
Joe: I didn’t know you were going in order! I’m just asking!
Alderson: I’d say if we were, again who knows what’s going to happen in spring training? Ideally — because we’d like more seasoning and so forth — ideally, he’d be for a five man rotation ideally he’d be eighth or ninth on the list coming out of spring training.
Evan: There’s also that service time thing, right? I guess you can’t say, but I’ll assume it. We won’t get you in trouble, Sandy. I don’t want you fined or anything like that.
Do you see that pitcher coming from free agency or via trade? How do you see yourself acquiring this guy?
Alderson: I’d say more likely free agency, but we have talked to some clubs. We do know that some starting pitching may become available because a team may have signed a free agent or two so they’re going to have extra pitching. I would say though, it’s likely to come from free agency.
Evan: How much do you have to spend?
Alderson: For the pitcher?
Evan: Yea, I guess how much would you want to spend for the pitcher?
Alderson: I don’t think we need to spend a great deal of money. You know, one of the reasons the Dickey trade came about was because the market for starting pitching in free agency has been white hot. It’s just incredible what guys are getting based on what they’ve done. That’s just my judgment, okay? I think it’s crazy.
So we don’t mind overpaying for the right guy, but we’re not going to overpay for the wrong guy. So I don’t know what we’re going to end up spending, but I think, in part, we have to hope the market doesn’t stay as hot as it has been. And again, not because we don’t want to spend money, but because we don’t see the value right now.
Evan: Francisco Liriano, what do you think about that? That’s a good fit, right?
Alderson: He’s on our list.
Evan: Getting Johan and Lirano back together. Except this time as 4-5s instead of 1-2s.
Joe: Sandy, looks you guys have basically said "Look, 2013. Okay. But you really got into the Met fan right now, you really got to look at 2014. You get the Santana money off the books. Obviously Bay’s gone, however you’re working that out. You’re going to have a lot more money to spend after the next season, but what do you say to the Met fan for 2013, what do you say to guy that figures the Mets are going to win 74-75 games again- to get through another year like this, what do you say to the Met fan?
Alderson: Well, I guess I’d say a couple of things. First of all, if you go back to last season, wasn’t it great the first 86 games? We were 46-40 and everybody was giddy. Can that happy again? Absolutely it can happen again. What we need to do is figure out a way to go 46-40, or repeat that, and go from there. And that’s what we’re focused on. Now, you’re right to say we are also looking at a, I wouldn’t say a we’re looking at long-term plan, we’re looking at a medium-term plan. The payroll situation changes dramatically after this season. But, look, I’m not that young, I got to live through another year. I don’t want to have an also-ran, either. We’re going to put something together that we think gives us a chance, and that’s our goal between now and the beginning of spring training. A lot can happen. Will we knock your socks off with some high-profile free-agent signing? Probably not. But we’re getting closer to the point where we’ll be able to do that. But we think there’s a lot that can be done between now and the beginning of Opening Day.
Evan: You bring in Collin Cowgill today for the minor leaguer Jefry Marte. You’ve got Duda, you’ve got Nieuwenhuis, you’ve got Baxter. I mean, it’s not earth shattering, but how many more outfielders do you feel you need to add? Is it one quality guy like a Cody Ross if the price is right, what do you see yourself needing to do here?
Alderson: Yea, we’d like to have another right hand hitting outfielder of some quality. No question about that.
Evan: Does Cody Ross fit the budget, you think?
Alderson: Well, to me it’s not a question of: Does so-and-so fit the budget? The first question is: Do we like him as a player? And then: Do we like him in comparison to what we think he will cost? And that’s without regard to the budget. Those are really the first two considerations.
And I wouldn’t like to comment on any specific guy, but as I said before, the market’s been hot and overheated. On the other hand, will that change? So, what we need to do right now, and what we’re trying to do, is we’re trying to say to ourselves be patient, but are there guys who won’t be there if we’re patient? Who are the guys who are going off the board and making decisions on those players and saying, ‘okay are we comfortable with him going off the board as the price for being patient, or do we need to go after him?’ And in some cases we’re doing that now, in other cases we’re going to pass and be a little more patient.
Joe: Sandy, one of the biggest crapshoots there is in baseball is the bullpen. (
Alderson: Yep.) And you took some shots last year with some guys, and pretty much they didn’t really work out. And you had some moments, but — Rauch, I understand that. Francisco. But they weren’t great. How about the bullpen this time around? How are you going to address that?
Alderson: Well first off, I’ll agree with everything you just said. I think that a couple of things are happening, and the most important one is that we’re starting to see young pitchers emerging in our own system who can make a contribution to the bullpen. The first two years that I’ve been here, we’ve just not had anybody other than those — so we had Parnell — but basically hadn’t really gotten any contribution from anybody in our system. And that was because the real good arms that we had just weren’t close. So we’ve waited for the Familias, we’ve waited for a variety of other guys, we’ve seen Josh Edgin come up. I really think what we’re counting on is that a lot of the young arms that are now starting to emerge at the major league level that maybe we just saw briefly at the end of last season can make a contribution. If that happens, not only are they making a contribution, but they have options, we can move them out, we can bring somebody else in, and create that kind of flexibility. That’s really the key for us. Now we’ve got to have people who can perform, but we can’t be reliant on one guy, or two guys. And maybe one or two guys that don’t pan out, or we don’t know as well as we know others. I’m really hopeful that the contributions that we’re going to start getting from our system are going to make the difference.
Evan: When next year rolls around, and you’ve said the payroll flexibility is going to be there, I mean right now, if I’m not mistaken, the only two guys signed for next year is like David Wright and Jon Niese, so it’s not like you’ve got a lot of huge commitments. Do you see a big shopping spree next year? Do you see you guys being players for big time free agents? Do you see that happening?
Alderson: I think it’s possible, yeah. I’m not going to sit here and commit Fred and Saul and Jeff to X number of dollars, but we all see the landscape changing after 2013. Now you’ve got to be prudent — and I like to be — but as I said sometimes you’ve got to go for it. And we will be in a position to have much more flexibility going into ‘14, that’s clear. And in some ways we’ve spent the last couple of years just digging ourselves out from under some of these obligations. And after ‘13 we are going to have lots of opportunity.
Joe: Sandy, we you comfortable and were you happy with what you this past year out of Daniel Murphy, and do you look at him as being the second baseman this year?
Alderson: I think we were happy with what we got from Murph. I think he developed into an acceptable, probably just about average, defensive second baseman. I think there’s more offense there. A little disappointed with the power production, which we think he has. He can be better on base. What I hope is, going into ’13, he’s more comfortable at second base now and can focus again on his approach. I mean, he’s an outstanding hitter – and we all know that – but he can be more productive, and I hope he will be.
Evan: And by the way, I just want to say, as I was talking to you I got an email from the Mets as a season ticket holder – I’m very excited - that January 30th that you, and all the other GMs, the assistants I guess I should say - not that they aren’t GMs – are going to be doing your like "State of the Mets 2013 strategy." So you know Sandy, I’m going to be there, I’m going to be in the first row, my hands going to be up, and I’m going to pepper you with annoying questions.
[…Thanks and "Happy Holidays" shared…]
We're considerably grateful to Steve Flanagan for transcribing this interview on short notice.