It's not easy to be the general manager of a Major League Baseball team. Managing payroll, signing free agents, trading players, hiring managers and coaches—all are part of the duties of the GM. But it's even tougher to be the general manager of a Major League Baseball team in New York. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees has been in the GM seat since 1998, a truly remarkable feat considering the turnover in the rest of the sport.
The New York Mets, however, hired Sandy Alderson to be their GM just after the conclusion of the 2010 regular season. He replaced Omar Minaya, who will forever be linked to free-agent busts such as Luis Castillo and Jason Bay. Alderson was brought on to try and right the ship in Queens, given hardly any budget to work with.
It's been two full seasons under Alderson now, and the Mets haven't exactly been the cream of the crop in the NL East (they have finished 4th in both seasons, winning a total of 151 games). And while Alderson does not publicly appear to be in danger of losing his job, one has to wonder how much longer he can survive in New York if positive results do not become the trend soon.
Given the low amount of payroll he has to work with, here are some moves that can help Alderson retain his role with the Mets. He needs to avoid the big, splashy free-agent signings (a la Mr. Minaya) and make smart moves that will help the club both short and long-term, all while being budget-conscious.
Alderson began his 2011 postseason shopping by retooling the Mets' bullpen. He acquired Ramon Ramirez in a trade with the San Francisco Giants. He signed Jon Rauch and Frank Franciso, both of whom had closer experience in the past. With the team still hopeful that Bobby Parnell could be their closer of the future, both Rauch and Francisco were inked to short-term deals (1-year, $3.5 million and 2-year, $12 million respectively).
However, both performed well below expectations in 2012. Rauch pitched to a 3.59 ERA and allowed 7.0 H/9. And Francisco, who was tabbed as the Mets' closer, saved 23 games but finished with a lofty 5.53 ERA. He walked 4.5 per nine innings pitched, and was altogether very ineffective.
Parnell has shown flashes of brilliance over his young career, but has yet to establish himself as a true ninth-inning man. What Alderson and the Mets need is a young, long-term solution in the bullpen.
Someone like Matt Capps or Brett Myers would at least be a vast improvement over the incumbent Francisco. Brian Wilson could also potentially be available, if the Giants decide to non-tender their closer as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
When you look at some of the more successful teams of late, you will see top-notch, young closers all shining for these clubs. The Texas Rangers have Neftali Feliz. Aroldis Chapman is shutting the door for the Cincinnati Reds. Frank Francisco does not qualify.
As of Tuesday morning, the Mets had reportedly offered David Wright a contract extension somewhere in the vicinity of six-to-seven years for at least $100 million. Wright's current contract runs through the end of the 2013 season.
Wright has become one of few bright spots in the Mets' lineup over the last few years, and keeping him in a Mets uniform has been the team's top priority this offseason. As a cornerstone of the franchise, letting him walk (a la Jose Reyes) would deflate the fan base, and could possibly cost Alderson his job in the end.
The 30-year-old third baseman has been an All-Star six times and has also won a pair of Gold Gloves. He ranks among the Mets' greatest in just about every offensive category, including tops in RBI, runs scored and hits.
It's getting more and more difficult to find young, quality starting pitching these days. In a trade, a team needs to give up most of the house, while via free agency a team would have to be prepared to shell out major bucks. Given that, Alderson and the Mets would likely do well to sign their two young pitching prospects—Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler—long-term.
Harvey will be 24 when the season starts, and after being drafted in the first round in 2010 (7th overall), he made his Major League debut in July of last year. In 2012, the right-hander was impressive. He pitched to a 2.73 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 59 innings.
Wheeler, 22, was drafted in the first round in 2009 by the Giants. It cost the Mets Carlos Beltran to acquire the young right-hander, but in the long run, the deal stands to benefit the Mets (Beltran has since left the Giants). He has yet to pitch in the big leagues, but we could be seeing him pitch at Citi Field in the very near future.
In short, these two youngsters are the future of the Mets' rotation. When we look at the success of teams like the Tampa Bay Rays or the San Francisco Giants, the first place we can look is their rotation. Names like David Price, James Shields, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum are what the Mets have been missing. Harvey and Wheeler can be those centerpieces for the Mets.
There's no question that the young Ruben Tejada had some enormous shoes to fill in taking over for the departed Jose Reyes. Tejada not only had to replace the All-Star shortstop in the field, but he was also tabbed to replace him atop the Mets' lineup. And while he had a decent 2012 season, his on-base skills did not resemble those of a quality leadoff hitter.
Tejada's on-base percentage was a mediocre .333, on a team that finished 11th in that category. He was the Mets leadoff hitter for 78 games, the most on the club. Outfielder Andres Torres, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Giants, was also expected to be a top-of-the-order hitter, but he had a miserable season, accumulating a .327 OBP.
Bottom line, in order for the run-producers like David Wright and Ike Davis to have a shot at cracking 100 RBI, they need to have guys on base in front of them. I'm not necessarily suggesting that Alderson splurge on a Michael Bourn. But perhaps a trade for Denard Span of the Twins is a little more feasible.