NEW YORK -- Several weeks into their search for a top baseball operations executive, the Mets have pivoted.
Rather than continue seeking a president of baseball operations, as it originally intended, New York will instead look to hire a general manager in the coming weeks.
The change in philosophy comes after the Mets canvassed front offices around baseball for experienced executives who could either move laterally into a president role or receive a promotion into one. But as club president Sandy Alderson dove into that process, he found the landscape “limited.” The Mets were denied permission to interview Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns, for example, according to sources. They never reached out to ex-Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who has expressed a desire to take a year off from baseball, nor did they interview Indians general manager Mike Chernoff.
“We’re a little disappointed,” Alderson said. “But as time went on, it became clear that people are going to be careful about giving up their front-office talent.
“Initially, I had higher expectations. But as we got into it and I thought about it and the environment that we’re in currently, I wasn’t surprised. There are a lot of organizations now that are focused on front-office talent. … Front offices -- and you can see this in the successful organizations that are out there -- have become incredibly important. And so, clubs don’t like to lose those assets.”
Rather than continue chasing a small pool of candidates amid a compressed timeline, Alderson decided to scale back his search and focus on a GM instead. Within that structure, Alderson will take charge of baseball operations in the short term, before eventually ceding most decisions to his new hire. His hope is that he can be a mentor to the Mets’ next GM, grooming him to become the team’s president of baseball operations in the future.
“That would be ideal,” Alderson said. “We’ll see … whether that actually happens. But I think that’s the goal.”
To that end, the Mets have already interviewed approximately six GM candidates. They intend to continue the process at least through the first week of December, with owner Steve Cohen participating in callback interviews for one or more candidates.
“We’re not concerned about a timeline with respect to this person that we hire,” Alderson said. “Of course, we’d like to get that person in place sooner rather than later, but I absolutely do not believe that it’s preventing us from moving forward on the player front and all the other issues that are presented in the offseason.”
No change in Canó’s status
The Mets are not currently considering releasing second baseman Robinson Canó following his second violation of Major League Baseball’s joint drug policy, which resulted in his suspension for the entire 2021 season. That could change in time, Alderson said, but for now, the Mets will retain Canó within the organization.
“We’re just dealing with the initial impact of this on our roster, on our offseason planning,” Alderson said. “If we take that decision, it’s something that we’ll entertain further down the road.”
Although Canó forfeited his $24 million salary for next season, he is still due $48 million from 2022-23, of which the Mets are responsible for $40.5 million. Releasing Canó would not take New York off the hook for that money, but it would take Canó out of its clubhouse.
While the Mets will likely approach outfielder Michael Conforto regarding a potential contract extension at some point this winter, Alderson has not engaged in such conversations since becoming team president earlier this month. Conforto, a 27-year-old who hit .322/.412/.515 in 54 games this past season, is currently set to become a free agent in November 2021.
“At some point, I’m sure we will broach that topic and take their temperature and see where things stand,” Alderson said.
Most extension conversations tend to take place between January and March, when arbitration-eligible players, like Conforto, negotiate new salaries with their teams. Conforto is due for a raise after making $8 million last season. He could follow the path of right-hander Jacob deGrom, who signed an extension one year out from free agency.
Tebow 'anxious to come back'
Alderson, the GM who signed Tim Tebow to a Minor League contract in 2016, confirmed that the former Heisman Trophy-winning football player will return to the organization next season.
Tebow has not played a regular-season baseball game since July 2019, when a left hand laceration prematurely ended his season with Triple-A Syracuse. He was not in the Mets’ 60-man player pool this past summer, but he continued to train near his Florida home.
“He’s anxious to come back,” Alderson said. “This is not a quest without end. At some point, it will culminate. I think that will be at a time when Tim and the organization come to some agreement about where he is and what his potential is. But I didn’t want him to go out based on some COVID-related interruption to his attempt to play.”
Tebow has hit .223 with 18 home runs over three Minor League seasons, though the Mets believe his impact has run far deeper.
“The organization has already benefited significantly from his involvement with the Mets and his pursuit of a baseball career,” Alderson said. “I think the Mets have benefited. I think baseball has benefited. This is not something that will go on forever. At some point, it will lose its cache or the interest of fans. But I couldn’t be happier with the way Tim has conducted himself as not only a teammate, but a representative of the Mets. So, given all that, he’s entitled to another shot.”