After seven consecutive years without postseason baseball and five straight without a winning record, New York Mets fans are anxious for general manager Sandy Alderson to be aggressive on the free-agent and trade market this offseason.
On Friday afternoon, Alderson was a guest on Mike Francesa's show on WFAN in New York to talk about his offseason plan and objectives for upgrading the talent base on the roster and to ask the impatient Mets faithful to trust in the process that he's been working on since taking over as general manager in 2010.
I understand that people are anxious to see what we’re going to do. I’m anxious to see how everything develops. We’ve got some holes to fill, there’s no question about that. But the nice thing about that...is that it gives us a lot of different combinations. While there are some obvious weaknesses, there are also some areas where we have relative strengths...that we might be able to further strengthen.
From a rational and analytical perspective, Alderson is right to show patience with a free-agent period that has barely begun. Unlike Philadelphia's Ruben Amaro, the Mets executive won't be impulsive and set the market for flawed players. If it takes until January to sign an impact player, so be it. In fact, Marlon Byrd, recently signed by the Phillies, per MLB.com, after a tremendous 2013 for the Mets and Pirates, was a February signing by Alderson last winter.
Yet, as we know, fans aren't rational and don't always bring analytical thinking to the table in baseball conversation. Every day that passes without a major acquisition by the Mets front office acts as a signal that the team doesn't care, ownership is broke and 2014 will be another disappointing summer in Flushing, Queens.
Outside of David Wright, who signed a long-term deal to remain the face of the Mets organization last offseason, the Mets don't have an impact bat in the lineup. Despite a young, ascending pitching staff that looks to be formidable even without Matt Harvey for the entire 2014 season, New York won't crack .500 unless the offense is augmented around Wright through a major move this winter.
During the course of the conversation with Francesa, Alderson talked about his strategy for adding offense, especially in the outfield.
“I’m staring at my board right now,” Alderson said. “In the outfield category, I’ve got seven guys on my board who are free agents—varying degrees of quality. In the trade category just as an example, I’ve got four, five—nine. Those are guys we talked about internally. They range from A+ to C+.”
In order to appease the impatient Mets fans, the eventual acquisition must grade out as an A or B on Alderson's board. Complementary pieces are great for teams attempting to get over the hump and become a postseason contenders, but that's not where the Mets are as a team right now. They are below average and desperately need an offensive jilt.
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Alderson's first two years in New York were used primarily to set the franchise up for long-term success through trades (Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler, R.A. Dickey for Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) and allowing albatross contracts (Johan Santana, Jason Bay) to expire. Now the farm system is loaded with young pitching, and there aren't any awful contracts holding New York's front office back from making a splash.
Few rational fans expect the Mets to win a championship in 2014, but a reasonable push to climb over the .500 mark isn't too high of an expectation. If the team can do that, the return of Harvey in 2015 will have the fans believing in championship aspirations for the first time since the 2006-2008 run in which the franchise averaged 91 victories per season.
That's why a splash is so important to Mets fans right now. Over the next few months, Alderson's patient and analytical side must mesh with the desire to get better immediately. When the team does hold a press conference to introduce a new slugger or high-profile star to the city of New York, it will buy the front office time to complete the rebuilding project that started years ago.
Despite acquiring high-end talent like Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Travis d'Arnaud, the fans in New York can't see the light at the end of the tunnel fast enough. In order to gain the trust and patience needed to cultivate a long-term contender, Sandy Alderson needs to make a splash now.
Even if the win curve suggests that it's more prudent to wait one more year, when Harvey is healthy and the franchise's other young building blocks have another year of seasoning, fans won't accept that type of delayed gratification.
At some point this winter, the present and future will collide in Queens. It's up to the general manager to make sure it's a smooth transition.
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