Yesterday, the Mets hosted the Season Ticket Holder Hot Stove Report, and Sandy Alderson and the Mets' front office were tasked with the unenviable task of responding to the most valuable customers of a team that hasn’t seen a World Series victory in nearly thirty years and is nearing a decade since its last post-season berth. While Sandy & Co. touched on a number of topics, the major theme of the event can be most aptly summed up by Alderson's desire to create "a sustainable model" for success.
In creating a foundation for the future, Alderson appears to be nearing completion of a farm reboot that will help the Mets avoid becoming "a one-year wonder," with both MLB.com and Keith Law praising Mets prospects. In fact, despite all of the hype surrounding the Mets from the baseball community, many of the comments from the front-office seemed to remain focused on the future rather than immediate results.
When asked about his expectations, Alderson made it very clear that he doesn’t expect to win ten more games than last year, which would put the Mets right around the cutoff for playoff contention, but rather believes that the current team has the "capacity" to do so. Once again, it appears that even the front office doesn’t fully anticipate a postseason run.
Going into the offseason the Mets were widely considered to have three major holes: left field, shortstop, and the bullpen. Alderson addressed all of these topics as well as the general inactivity of the offseason and potential moves going into spring training. On the Michael Cuddyer signing, Alderson made specific reference to the short duration of his new contract, implying that first-round picks Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, who both have had rave reviews on their approaches and makeup, might have been a consideration when making the move.
On the shortstop front, the discussion has seemingly moved away from who will man the position to a question of how the Mets ended up with another year of Wilmer Flores. Apparently, the Mets spent much of the offseason looking into about eight to ten different options to replace Flores but between the marginal improvement and the cost in dollars and talent, there was never a move that the front office wanted to pursue. In addition, Alderson also mentioned that the Mets "simply weren’t going to trade Noah Syndergaard," which helped contribute to the lack of strong trade options for shortstop in particular.
Regarding the bullpen and left-handed pitching, after being priced out of the top-tier relief pitchers, the front office simply didn’t feel comfortable handing out major league contracts to any of the options out there, especially when "relief pitchers are [so] notoriously hard to predict." Finally, Alderson indicated that the team may simply go into spring training with all of its starting pitching. Trying to add to the limited excitement of the offseason, J.P. Ricciardi praised the hiring of Kevin Long as "a quality hitting coach" and the addition of the offseason conditioning program as key steps towards success this year.
Another theme of the event was the constant discussion of the youth of both the current major league team and minor league talent. Alderson was quick to point out that the Mets are "rely[ing] on…the younger players to get a little better" and that there is talent throughout the organization that should continue to help the major league product over the next several years. Paul DePodesta, vice president of scouting and player development, chimed in to praise the success of the farm system on the integration of player development and scouting, a relatively unique feature to the Mets.
On the prospect watch, fans should expect 20-year-old Dilson Herrera to start in Las Vegas and 19-year-old Amed Rosario to start in Single-A Savannah with a shot at a promotion to High-A St. Lucie. On the topic of Rosario, despite his high ceiling, Alderson is not banking on him helping the team over the next few years and stated that he "has absolutely no relevance to what we do in 2015."
Finally, any Mets event would be incomplete without discussing returning phenom Matt Harvey. Alderson told the crowd that Harvey’s first start will depend on his readiness and how the Mets want to manage his season in order to keep him available for a playoff run. Still, every indication is that "he’s going to be ready" for Opening Day.
Overall, despite the excitement from the team, Alderson made it clear that the Mets certainly are not in the business of endangering their stock of young talent to make a playoff push. Independent of the reasons for his patience, if playoffs are the goal this season, the responsibility will fall squarely on the shoulders of the young players on the roster.