Can Alderson make another splash in NY?

December 1st, 2020

Sandy Alderson, back with the Mets as team president after putting them into one of only five World Series in the franchise’s history, is also the ex-general manager of the A’s and the Padres, and also an ex-Marine who served his country in Vietnam as a young man. Now, 37 years after becoming GM of the A’s at the age of 36, he is serving a second tour with the Mets.

I sent him a text on Monday about basically re-enlisting with the Mets after Steve Cohen bought the team.

“Yes, sir,” Alderson responded. “All volunteer!”

His meaning was clear. Alderson didn’t need to do this after the career he’s had. He wanted to. Then, I asked if Mets fans could expect to get a free agent for Christmas this year.

The response this time was simple enough, and it came quickly.

“Yes,” Alderson said.

Alderson has still not yet hired a new general manager, who will report to him. That’s not the kind of free agent we’re talking about here. Mets fans are looking for Cohen to give Alderson money to spend and for Alderson to spend it. Most Mets fans I know are hoping that at least a big chunk of that change will go to George Springer, a former University of Connecticut star and 2017 World Series MVP Award winner. He's 31-year-old center fielder who hit a career-high 39 homers in 2019 with the Astros. If you’re keeping score at home, only one Mets center fielder ever hit more than that in a season: Carlos Beltrán hit 41 homers for the Mets in '06, when they ended up one game short of going to the World Series.

Of course, Springer is someone who would fit very nicely into a batting order that already has Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Dom Smith, all of whom were drafted during Alderson’s first tour of duty with the Mets, which began in 2010 and ended for health reasons after the end to the '18 season. (Alderson is now cancer free.)

So Alderson is back in business at Citi Field. It’s a good thing, because he is a great baseball man, one whose long baseball life incudes a different kind of tour in the Commissioner’s office. Before wunderkind general managers became the vogue in baseball, he was one in Oakland in the 1980s (and later hired one named Billy Beane, who actually brought Alderson back to the A’s last year). The A’s played in three World Series under Alderson’s watch and won one in '89. His next job running a team came with the Padres, and not long after Alderson went there, the Padres won back-to-back division titles.

Then he went to the Mets and became one of the handful of front-office leaders in their history to take them to the World Series. One of the reasons they made the trip in 2015 was because Alderson made as big and important a trade, in the middle of the season, as any Mets GM ever made -- the one for Yoenis Céspedes.

We all know how things ended with Céspedes in New York. We know how bad the $110 million contract to which Alderson eventually signed looked when Céspedes couldn’t stay on the field, then elected not to play in 2020, citing coronavirus concerns. But Mets fans also remember that Céspedes was as valuable and dynamic a hitter as there was in baseball after Alderson acquired him from Detroit on July 31, 2015. The Mets were 52-50 that July before the trade, and they finished 90-72, while Céspedes, more than anyone, carried them to their first World Series since 2000.

Céspedes hit 17 home runs in 2015 following the trade, and he had one stretch during which he hit nine homers in 13 games. It was one of the biggest deals of Alderson’s long career. The Mets tried to scope out another big deal by hiring a former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, as their general manager. But now, Cohen, who grew up a Mets fan and remembers when Citi Field finally sounded like old Shea Stadium in October '15, brought back Alderson, the baseball man who helped produce the last great Mets moment. And asks Alderson to bring the Mets back with him.

Here is what Alderson said the other day on MLB network radio: "There are only two currencies in baseball: players and money. And right now, [in] the upper levels of our system, we don't have the players. We have some money at this point, and so we're going to sort of balance those two things. But our focus is going to be -- that's why we expect to be somewhat active in the free-agent market, as opposed to the trade market.”

Springer is out there, and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees’ best player the past two years, is a free agent. So are catchers J.T. Realmuto, James McCann and even an older Yadier Molina. Trevor Bauer is the star pitcher out there. Last year, the Yankees gave $324 million to Gerrit Cole as a Christmas present for their fans. Now, Mets fans wait to see what Steve Cohen and Sandy (Santa?) Alderson give them.

New owner working with the old GM. Everything old is new again at Citi Field.