Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Challenges Ahead

We find ourselves halfway through November, and the New York Mets' front office search hasn't been resolved yet. By all reports, the club is focused on hiring a GM. Other reports indicate the Mets still hope to install the Brewers' David Stearns as PBO after his current contract runs out next year. In that case, this year's GM hire would slot in underneath Stearns in the Mets front office hierarchy.

In a piece written for The Athletic a few days ago by Tim Britton, Britt Ghiroli, and Ken Rosenthal, they report:
...New York is operating under the belief that Stearns’ contract runs out after the 2022 season, and sources indicate that Stearns has serious interest in the position.

If this is indeed the case, I would assume that Stearns has found a way to communicate to the Mets that he wants the job. Britton and his co-authors apparently also have sources confirming that interest, as indicated in the above quote from the piece. This would also contradict earlier reports that Stearns was happy in Milwaukee and not interested in the Mets' job, so I take it all with a grain of salt.

Of course, if the last two years have shown us anything, it's that things can change over time. I would only hope that the Mets aren't counting on this playing out. The club should be evaluating options based on the possibility of whoever gets hired as GM becoming the number two man to Stearns, but also potentially being the #1 guy if Stearns never comes to New York.

By now, I'm sure that the serious Mets fans who read these thoughts are aware that former Nationals Assistant GM Adam Cromie seems to be receiving serious consideration for the GM position. Given that he's been out of baseball since 2017, I don't imagine he'd object to ultimately having the #2 job in baseball ops. However, the Mets need to be confident that Cromie could handle running things for at least a season. Maybe longer if the Stearns situation doesn't play out as they hope.

In the article in The Atheltic, Sandy Alderson is quoted from Wednesday at the GM Meetings that the Mets were "still going through the process," but also expressing hope that the team was "getting to the end of this general manager search." I think we can all strongly second that hope. It's my honest belief that the media's criticism of this process has been unfairly harsh, but that certainly doesn't mean it's been entirely unwarranted. The organization led by Alderson and Steve Cohen have certainly made their share of missteps. This search for a candidate to run baseball operations certainly hasn't proceeded flawlessly.

However, what can't be overlooked is the importance of the Mets just getting things as right as possible. In the New York Post, Joel Sherman criticized Sandy Alderson's comments from last week that blamed the market for the reluctance of a good number of candidates to even interview for the job. As quoted in Sherman's piece, Alderson stated:

Admittedly there’s a reluctance to come to New York, but I think it's mostly about New York, and not about Steve or the organization or what have you. It's a big stage, and some people would prefer to be elsewhere.

Sherman took exception to that, and I think he had a point. I wouldn't characterize candidates' reluctance as "mostly about New York," as Alderson put it. I think the New York market does play a significant role, but the Mets have certainly opened themselves up to questions about the organization's direction. If a potential candidate has hesitation about operating under the white-hot spotlight of the New York media, imagine how that hesitation is magnified by the stumbles the organization has made since Steve Cohen took over.

take issue with some of what's written by the local media about the Mets. Still, the underlying (and undeniable) truth is that there is a negative perception of the club around baseball. That perception limits their ability to lure attractive players, coaches, and management types into the organization. But this perception is something that the Mets can control by making fewer missteps, making more intelligent moves, and ultimately, putting a consistently better product on the field. A smart hire for the GM position this year is the first step to inching into what I like to think of as a post-LOL Mets era.

It's essential for the club to get past the perception that there is still leftover dysfunction from the Wilpon regime. The only way to get that process moving in the right direction is to make a solid hire and address the monumental tasks ahead of this club. Even if Alderson and Cohen are reasonably confident that they can lure David Stearns here next year, the Mets find themselves at a crucial organizational crossroads this year.

The Mets will, by all accounts, try to put a playoff contender on the field this season. With questions about Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, and the rest of their starting pitching, they have to acknowledge at the least the possibility of coming up short competitively again. Some questions can be mitigated with good luck in the upcoming season, and the potential bounce-back of some of their hitters like Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil. Good luck was certainly a commodity that was in short supply in 2021.

I believe whoever is running the club must be prepared to move in different directions in 2022, based on how things play out. The correct evaluation of the situation will be critical. For instance, the Mets trading away their first-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong at the deadline for a couple of months of Javier Báez doesn't hold up as the right move, given that the club already knew that deGrom and Syndergaard weren't returning any time soon. Realistically, more thought should have been given to selling than buying at the deadline.

As much as I wish to see the Mets compete for a playoff spot in 2022, I need the club to realistically evaluate the chances of that happening and make moves accordingly. The Mets have a handful of decent prospects, but they certainly aren't overflowing with talent. To my mind, they're more about the future than the present as currently constituted. There need to be accurate evaluations made this time around.

Looming over any decision that the Mets make in the coming days is the impending MLB work stoppage when the agreement between MLB and the players expires on December 1. This is just another tricky obstacle the new Mets GM will face right at the beginning of his tenure. Even if this gets resolved quickly — good luck with that — the new Mets GM will have to adjust on the fly to whatever changes under a new contract and how that affects their pursuit of players. Whatever happens, a monumentally challenging winter lies ahead for the Mets and their fans.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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