Earlier today, Sandy Alderson made another appearance with Mike Francesa at WFAN. You can listen to the full interview here. Among the highlights:
- Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will battle for the starting first base job in spring training.
- The Mets have the resources to sign Stephen Drew—at the right price, of course.
- Alderson has explored trading Davis and Duda, as well as trading for a shortstop from another organization.
- The front office is well aware of the bullpen's general lack of experience, though additional signings there sound unlikely.
The full transcript, via Aaron Yorke and Chris Strohmaier, is below.
Mike Francesa: Sandy, welcome. How are you?
Sandy Alderson: Mike, I’m doing fine. Thanks.
Francesa: All right. Where are we, Sandy? How would you say things are progressing as you get ready for pitchers and catchers?
Alderson: Well, I think we’re happy with the progress we’ve made. Everybody would like to do one or two additional things if they had the opportunity, and we may add somebody of not great significance between now and Saturday, but I think we’re happy with where we are and we’re looking forward to getting started.
Francesa: Are you content at the shortstop position?
Alderson: I think given the realistic opportunities at this point, we’re happy as of the first day of spring training. Now, that obviously could change over time during the course of spring training games and what have you, but I’m optimistic that we’re going to see a little bit of a different Tejada going into this season.
Francesa: There are still a number of players out there. Is it fair to say that maybe those players will move more towards numbers that may appeal to somebody like you over the next couple of weeks when reality starts to set in?
Alderson: Well, I think for a lot of those players, reality set in some time ago. The question is whether those players are ready to cede to that reality. There are still a number of avenues that these players can take. One may be to just sit tight and see if someone has an injury or sub-performance over the course of the spring. Some others may want to jump and just get signed and be done with it.
Francesa: When you put yourself in their shoes, do you feel that they’re comfortable not to be in a camp? Where is their day that they don’t want to cross? Is it in March, or is it on Opening Day?
Alderson: Well, there were players that signed in May last year…
Francesa: So being in camp doesn’t really bother them that much?
Alderson: Not yet. With pitchers, depending on what their throwing schedule has been, I think that pitchers could even show up sometime after the opening of camp and be fine. Position players, it’s probably the same thing. As you get into the games actually being played and the tempo picking up, then I think it gets a little less comfortable.
I’m not suggesting that a lot of players will hold out, but I think there are some that will, who just aren’t ready to accept the reality of their situations. I think last week, maybe the last ten days or so, you saw a large number of relief pitchers come off the board in one fell swoop, and I think that that was a recognition on their part that said ‘I’m not going to get the $10 million deal. I’m going to get the seven-times-two and be done with it.’
One of the issues there is that some players are disappointed coming out of the offseason with the contracts they get, and how that affects their performance. I’m sure in some cases, it won’t affect it at all, but in other cases, I think you do have to ask the question, ‘where’s the motivation?’ You know, we’ll see.
Francesa: If I was a player, and I had some faith in my ability, and I’m holding out for $10 million, I would take the seven-for-one, and come right back out into the market rather than take the seven-for-two. I don’t understand the process of trying to take the seven-for-two if you have any faith in your ability.
Alderson: Well, I agree with you. Among relief pitchers, it’s such an ever-changing, volatile market. If you think back to three years ago, we had a potential option on K-Rod of like $17 million. Well, now the best guys on the market are signing for ten, and most are signing for less than that. The ones that got ten this year were the ones that signed almost immediately in the offseason, when clubs jumped in the market, thought the rate was ten million, and now it’s somewhat lower than that.
So you can see that it can be somewhat unpredictable. So I’m not surprised that relievers have gone that way. Relievers tend to get shortchanged anyway, but I think for some of these starting pitchers, it takes a little longer for them to accept that reality, and maybe for position players longer than that.
Francesa: Did you expect this process, or does it surprise you that that many players are still out there?
Alderson: The system that we have now, with the qualifying offers and the draft pick compensation and the limit on draft spending and international spending has really changed the balance between draft picks and free agents. We saw last year that there were a couple of free agents that went very late simply because they were given qualifying offers, they were rejected, there was compensation involved, and ultimately they signed.
We were involved in one: Michael Bourn. He went to Cleveland, which was protected on its first round pick. And then Kyle Lohse went to Milwaukee, and they eventually gave up a pick, but they got Lohse for much below what had originally been projected. The same things have happened this year. We have a handful or so of guys in similar situations. I’m not surprised given what happened last year, but there certainly are more of them this year than there were last year.
Francesa: Do you feel, even in the bullpen, that you are complete right now and can go north with team, or do you have to realize that you have still have things you need to do before Opening Day?
Alderson: Well, there’s certainly things that we need to consider. The bullpen, for example. We’ve admitted for some time that there’s not a lot of experience out there. So we continue to look for other experienced relievers. We’re sort of treading a fine line here.
On the one hand, we don’t want to give up spots from to of the younger guys who we feel can help us in the pen. On the other hand, we don’t want to go in completely naked, either, without any experience. So what we’ve done is we’ve signed Farnsworth to a minor league deal, we may sign another minor league deal. But we’re also continuing to talk to other clubs. But I would say right now, going in, that we have to look hard at what we have and hope that some guys step up. But there’s always the possibility in spring training that we could add. If we’re going to add someone in the pen or elsewhere once we get into spring training, it has to be more than just a body. It needs to be somebody who has a chance to make an impact.
Francesa: You made the signings that you made. You had hoped to maybe change a couple of pieces, like maybe Ike or Duda at first. Are you surprised that both of them are still on the team, or was it something you thought was a distinct possibility anyway?
More First Base
More First Base
Alderson: I thought it was a possibility, and the reason I thought it was a possibility is that in many cases with trades, there’s a different perception of value. We look at Duda, we look at Ike, and we see left-handed-hitting power that is fairly rare in the game right now. The clubs we’re talking to acknowledge that, but look at the risk associated with performance or non-performance, so there’s been a little bit of a disconnect. I don’t actually think we’ve been asking for too much, but as we saw over the course of the winter, there’s always another alternative, and at this point we’ve had active conversations with a couple of clubs in this area in particular. As it stands right now, we’ve decided that the value to us in hedging our bets on one or the other, or on the possibility of injury, is more valuable than what we think we can get in the marketplace.
Francesa: So they go into the preseason, they go into the exhibition seaosn, and battle it out? Is that the plan here?
Alderson: Yeah, that’s the plan.
Francesa: And what happens to the loser? Is he still on the team or he’s gone?
Alderson: He could still be on the team, but we have options on both of those players, so they could end up in Las Vegas.
Francesa: It’s unlikely that one’s on the bench, though. The winner is going to be there as part of the first base platoon or maybe the whole thing, but the loser, most likely, you’d have to figure there’s not room on the roster, right?
Alderson: I’d say likely. I would agree with you there, but you never know.
Francesa: With a case that one could be moved if they’re both looking good…
Alderson: Yes, that’s always a possibility.
Francesa: So that’s basically it? ‘Hey guys, just go to work and we’re going to choose one or the other?’
Alderson: Yeah. Go to work and let’s see what happens. And the worst case scenario for us is that neither performs. The best case scenario is that they both do.
Francesa: That’s an interesting situation that has developed at first base, there’s no question. Do you look at it as just being Tejada’s job, or would you like to bring somebody in—without making a significant move—to challenge him?
Alderson: Well, I think you’ve got to be realistic about that. We continue to talk to clubs about shortstops that may be out there, available in a trade. There aren’t that many, and the price, what you have to give up, is always a consideration, but those conversations have continued. It’s just hard to predict what will happen over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, but in the meantime, Ruben demonstrated a real commitment to get better by working out during the offseason up in Michigan, and I’m anxious to see how that translates on the field.
Francesa: I saw Harvey the other day at the charity event I did up in Connecticut. He said that everything’s moving along, but that still means a year or late September at the earliest. That being said, what is the state of the youngsters? Can any of them push their way onto the Opening Day roster, or is it not even a possibility that they can be so impressive that they push their way onto the roster?
Alderson: I think it’s possible that they could push their way onto the Opening Day roster. I think it’s unlikely that anyone is going to displace Colon, Niese, Wheeler, or Gee.
Francesa: I agree, but for that one spot?
Alderson: We brought in a couple of minor league free agents, including Matsuzaka, that can compete there…
Francesa: He actually pitched well last September.
Alderson: Yeah, I talked to Terry earlier today. He said he looked good today too, just throwing a bullpen.
Francesa: Yeah, he did pitch well. His games take a while, but he did pitch well. The kids, though, that everyone is hearing about: Montero, and Syndergaard, and et cetera. Not likely, but there is a possibility that one of them could steal the fifth spot?
Alderson: Oh yeah. I think that’s very possible. We’ll see as we get into camp who pitches well, but the nice thing is that we’ve got lots of candidates for the fifth spot, as opposed to lots of candidates for three, four, and five.
Francesa: No, you have good pitching. Your pitching’s not bad.
Alderson: That’s a strength, and we’ve tried to create opportunity for these young guys, and that opportunity may arise in the bullpen. It wouldn’t be that unusual to see one of our really good arms end up in the pen.
Francesa: Teams believe in that. Some teams do, some teams don’t. How do you feel about having your future starters start in the bullpen? Are you okay with that? You like it or you don’t like it?
Alderson: Well, we haven’t done it much with our absolutely top-tier prospects like Harvey and Wheeler. On the other hand, we’ve got so many now that are on the verge of the major leagues that it may be the right thing to do. I’d be surprised if we put Syndergaard in the pen, and I don’t mean to differentiate him from Montero, or deGrom, or Mejia, or what have you. But where they are in their development, and their option status, and all those kind of things come into play.
Francesa: But he’s the guy that everybody buzzes about now. That’s the guy they all buzz about is Syndergaard?
Alderson: Yeah. Most people who do these things rate him as our top prospect. He’s very definitely one of our handful of best.
Francesa: How about Leathersich? Can he burst into your pen? Is that possible?
Francesa: How do you feel about your catching situation right now?
Alderson: I feel pretty good about it. You know, d’Arnaud is the guy we’re going to go with. I think Recker did a good job last year.
Francesa: Yeah, he was okay. So, no thought about bringing in a veteran guy, or bringing somebody back with some age on them just to solidify things?
Alderson: You know, we’ve looked through a lot of those guys, not just since I’ve been here, but even before that. We run through a lot of guys who are veterans and are perennial backups, and I thought last year with Recker, who didn’t fit that profile, did a decent job for us, and we had two young guys at Triple-A who we were reasonably confident in on a backup basis. We’ve got Teagarden who’s coming in. I think we’re okay there as long as d’Arnaud stays healthy.
Francesa: And you do expect him to show you the bat that everyone has always talked about? Because, the surprising thing is that he didn’t hit much.
Alderson: Yeah, that may have been a product of just not having played much in the previous two years; he missed so much time. Look, he’s saying all the right things. He’s shortened his stroke, and he’s not going to overthink it. I think that’s what happened. When you go 0-for-20, suddenly you start thinking more than you need to and you get into that rut.
Francesa: We’re talking with Sandy Alderson of the Mets who are getting ready to open camp, a little "state of the union." Is Granderson definitely your right fielder, or is that flexible since he can play some center field? Is that how you look at him?
Alderson: Well, I don’t think he’s going to play center field, ideally we’re going to have somebody else there, whether that’s Lagares or Chris Young. Granderson could play either of the corner positions, and obviously could play center field, too, but he wasn’t signed with that in mind. Hopefully, he upgrades our outfield defense wherever he plays, and hopefully he brings his power bat with him.
Francesa: Oh, he’ll bring plenty of offense wherever he plays, there’s no question. He’ll hit a lot of doubles and triples, he’ll hit in that ballpark. I think it’s a terrific signing, I think he’ll be excellent with the Mets. I think he’s a very underrated offensive player, he knows how to play in New York, and he’s a gamer. I’m very high on Granderson, I think he’s a very good player. I don’t think he’s an issue at all. I think the question is ‘where are you going to play him?’ What would make you happiest, are you looking for a platoon with the kid in center? Do you want to give Lagares a chance to win the center field job? How do you want to attack your outfield?
Alderson: In an ideal situation, it would be determined, and I think it will be determined largely on the basis of the offensive production we get from these guys, because they’re all capable defensively in the outfield. So, what is Chris Young capable of doing offensively, versus Granderson, versus Young, versus Lagares, versus someone else. It would be great if Lagares came in and his on-base percentage shot up to .350 or he hit some home runs. He hasn’t shown that yet, it’s possible, but what I hope is that we get good offensive production from three in that group and we go with it.
Francesa: Right, so you’re looking at it as—well, are you going to give the kids the chance to win the center field job?
Alderson: He’ll have every opportunity, yeah. When we signed Chris Young, we didn’t tell him he’d play center field, we told him he’d get at-bats. We promised him at-bats, especially early in the season and show that he can hit right-handed pitching and see what happens.
But what I did tell him was, when the spring training season opens, in the first game, Lagares will be in center field. So, I think Juan will get the chance to win the job, and we’re not going to preclude him from that, but there’s some things he he to improve on offensively. He knows exactly what he needs to do and how he needs to do it. You know, he had a nice winter league season until he got hurt, a minor injury, but he was hitting .340, .350 and the on-base percentage was moving up, as well. He’s been in Michigan, I think he’s still there, coming home on Friday, so it will be interesting to see.
Francesa: Are you in a position, Sandy, to add pieces from a financial standpoint? Or are you pretty much at the margin right now?
Alderson: We’ve got some room, a little room.
Francesa: You want to define ‘little?’
Alderson: [laughs] No. I think it depends on the player.
Francesa: Could you sign a significant player?
Alderson: Could we sign Stephen Drew? Is that the question? [laughs]
Francesa: Yeah, that would be a nice one. We can start there, I could name some others.
Alderson: I think the answer is yes, under the right circumstances.
Francesa: On your terms.
Alderson: Well, it’s going to have to be on terms that are mutually agreeable. Are we going to sign a free agen t between now and spring training for $15 million a year? I don’t think so.
Francesa: No, but still Drew would be a significant signing. I could name a couple of pitchers that would be significant signings. So guys like that, is that feasible? Or will it have to come another way?
Alderson: I think it’s feasible, but we’ve been talking about the starting pitching. We’re not going to go out and spend a lot of money on other guys. We’re not going to do that.
Francesa: I don’t think you need to! I think reliever, I mean, optimum would be reliever, shortstop, and maybe another bat. Those would be the three things.
Alderson: The reliever market is pretty well evaporated. It’s gone.
Francesa: We know you made a move on one, was there anyone else you made a move on?
Alderson: We made an offer on another reliever that didn’t work out.
Francesa: So you actually bid on two different guys, but you didn’t get either one. Were you close on the other one, or no ?
Alderson: [long pause] No. [laughs] In my mind to sort throuh, ‘how would I characterize this accurately?’ I don’t want to say ‘hey, we just missed.’ People don’t want to hear that. I think the only important thing to take away from this is that we’re still looking at the bullpen situation. We’re not oblivious to our lack of experience.
Francesa: If the price is right, you can upgrade your ball team, right? If you see value, you can move it forward if you feel there is the right deal to be made? It’s not as if business has shut down. The bank isn’t closed, right?
Alderson: Yep , that’s right.
Francesa: I think it’s important because the fans are still interested. And obviously they’re interested in Drew, but they’re interested in some other names and some other people, and they’re interested in relievers that didn’t come. I’m guessing a trade for a reliever isn’t likely, right? I mean, not too many guys are going to be trading you relievers.
Alderson: Well, it just depends on what other needs are. I will say that spring training deals are not that common, an d deals five days before camp opens are very rare, but it could happen. More likely, it’s a waiver claim or a waiver deal that gets made, because there are players out there that don’t have options left and that sort of thing. As far as an impact deal is concerned, if you’re going to make one in spring training it’s going to be a little later, and you can’t count on it because there aren’t many that are made typically.
Francesa: I don’t like hypotheticals, but I’ll ask one anyway. Would you have been more aggressive if Harvey were in the rotation?
Alderson: I don’t think so.
Francesa: Would it have changed the mindset at all?
Alderson: I don’t think so, and that brings up an interesting issue. The storyline for 2014, as far as we’re concerned, is not Matt Harvey. And I know there are a lot of people that are interested in ‘when’s Matt going to throw? Is he on the mound next week?’
2014 is not about Matt Harvey, unfortunately, it’s about the other 40 players we have on our Major League roster and the 25 guys that play. It would be great to get Matt back, but right now we don’t have him, so as far as we’re concerned the story is elsewhere. It’s up to me and the rest of the front office and the remaining players to make sure that 2014 is relevant to them.
Francesa: That’s a good point, that you’re not looking towards next year already and to Matt Harvey’s return?
Alderson: [empatically] No!
Francesa: I agree with that. 2014 was always the target, we all knew that. It’s not like you put the money back in your pocket because Matt Harvey’s not here?
Alderson: If we had felt that way, we wouldn’t have signed Granderson to a $60 million contract, we wouldn’t have signed Colon. It’s possible with Harvey we wouldn’t have signed Colon. But the fact is, we’ve spent a lot of money. We haven’t spent Yankee money, but we’ve spent a lot of money compared to other clubs in the free agent market. This is about 2014 and trying to be as good as we can possibly be as a Mets team. At the same time, w e’re monitoring Matt and his return, but for ‘14, it’s essentially irrelevant.
Francesa: Harvey aside, obviously, is this the team in October you could have envisioned? Is it less, is it more? How would you say your vision is where it was, say, November to where it is now?
Alderson: I think that we’re happy with the improvements we made in the outfield, we’re happy with the addition of Bartolo Colon, and we’re very pleased that we have so much young pitching coming. We’re reasonably comfortable with the competition in the bullpen.
I think aside from the long-debated situation at shortstop, this is the place where we wanted to be. And as far as shortstop is concerned, sometimes you’re able to make the improvements you’d like, sometimes you’re not. But I do believe the internal candidate, in this case Ruben, has a chance to be a better player. If you look at his track record, last year was obviously his worst of his three, and we’ve got to get him back on an upward trajectory rather than a downward one. If we see improvement that gets him close to where he was his first couple years, or close to that range, that’ll be positive.
Francesa: What are you expecting from this team, right now, that you’ve put together? Is this team going to be vastly better, vastly more competitive than the last couple teams?
Alderson: I think it has the chance to be much more competitive. I think we’re going to go into the season stronger offensively than we had been. We’re going to have to get solid performances out of some of the guys who are capable of those, including behind the plate and first base, and some improvement from Murphy.
The outfield should be improved, and from the beginning of the year, as opposed to the middle of the year last year when it was so much better. We’ve got a lot of young guys that will be featured in spring training, but ultimately could play a big role later in the season. Ultimately, it’s hard to tell which of those will rise to the top. We’re more excited going into spring training this year than any year since I’ve been here—at least I am. It’s partially becau se these young guys are finally surfacing, but it’s also because we’ve added some veteran help. One of the things that I like about all the guys we brought in was that they’ve all been to the playoffs. Colon, Chris Young, Granderson, they’ve all been to the playoffs. They’ve all played winning baseball. If you’ve looked at the guys we’ve had on the team for a period of time, not a lot of playoff experience. Self-evident why, but we’ve got some guys with not just with major league experience, but with playoff experience, winning environments, and we think that could have a big impact on things as well.
Francesa: Well, I think you’ve answered all the questions. Good luck. Hopefully the things that need to fall into place, fall into place. We’ll chat down the road in spring training. Good luck.
Alderson: Okay, Mike. Thanks.