Sandy Alderson Citi Field

Revisiting “Five ways to ‘fix’ the Mets”

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It was a little less than a year ago when I wrote a piece for HardballTalk entitled “Five ways to ‘fix’ the Mets.”

For those who have forgotten, here were my recommendations at the time:

  • Decide on a public face
  • Learn how to keep certain things in-house
  • A complete and thorough review/overhaul of medical protocol
  • Invest in the draft
  • Bridge the disconnect between the front office and the fans

Ah, memories. Of course, the Mets endured yet another disappointing season in 2010, finishing at 79-83 and in fourth place in the National League East. In what was a foregone conclusion for months, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel were relieved of their duties immediately following the season.

The organization has underwent a massive overhaul over the past three months, bringing on former Athletics general manager and Padres president Sandy Alderson as the new general manager. In turn, Alderson hired two of his former lieutenants, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, to work in the revamped front office. Many fans rallied around Wally Backman for manager, but the job eventually went to Terry Collins, who served as the organization’s minor league field coordinator in 2010.

The holidays have predictably brought the Hot Stove to a halt, so I thought now would be a fun time to apply my original list of recommendations to the new front office and see what progress, if any, has been made.

1) Decide on a public face: As I mentioned in February, there were times when John Ricco would address the media on certain issues rather than Omar Minaya. Granted, this isn’t out of the ordinary in other organizations, but in New York, it only fed into the perception that Minaya had evolved into a powerless figurehead. We can’t say that about Alderson so far.

The hiring of Alderson has quickly drawn comparisons to Frank Cashen from the early 80s. He wowed the room during his introductory press conference, quickly silencing those who wondered if he was “too old” for the job. I’m perfectly willing to put up with corny videos like this if it means he’ll continue to call out opposing general managers for doling out bad contracts. He’s already the anti-Minaya.

2) Learn to keep certain things in-house: This is the real wild card for me, for a couple of reasons. Alderson is the general manager of a baseball team in New York, so he is going to have to deal with some unwanted and possibly overblown controversy along the way. Perhaps nothing as crazy as Francisco Rodriguez’s arrest, as bizarre as Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery, or something self-inflicted like the Adam Rubin press conference debacle, but some sort of drama is inevitable.

Also, while Alderson served in a different capacity in San Diego, Trevor Hoffman called the organization “dysfunctional.” It’s very possible that some of this was heat of the moment-type stuff from a franchise icon on the way out, but it serves as a reminder that Alderson can’t control the players. That being said, I am confident that Alderson will be able to handle a difficult situation in a more professional manner than his predecessor. I know, I’m setting the bar pretty high here.

3) A complete and thorough review/overhaul of medical protocol: Again, too early to tell. During an appearance with Mike Francesa on WFAN earlier this month, Alderson said (via MetsBlog) that he has yet to “draw any conclusion” or “put his finger” on why the Mets have suffered so many injuries over the past two seasons, but that he is working with team doctors to understand what has taken place. He also announced that the team would be hiring a new strength and conditioning coach to replace Rick Slate, who will not be retained for 2011.

4) Invest in the draft: The Mets have rarely exceeded the slot recommendations in the draft, but during a recent conference call with influential Mets bloggers, Alderson said (courtesy of Amazin’ Avenue) that he believes the club “will be over-slot,” “maybe more than ocassionally.” Alderson has repeatedly said that a large-market team like the Mets should never be in the middle of the park as far as player development is concerned, so we should expect them to throw their weight around a little bit moving forward. And finally, while he isn’t the only person to blame, the club dismissed amateur scouting director Rudy Terrasas last month, hinting towards a change in drafting philosophy.

5) Bridge the disconnect between the fans and the front office: While it’s too soon to tell with most of the items on this list, the Mets have made the most progress in this area. For example, they invited prominent Mets bloggers (including Caryn Rose of MetsGrrl) on a conference call with executive VP for business operations Dave Howard in November in order to talk about ticket prices. And as I mentioned earlier, Alderson recently spoke with a panel of influential Mets bloggers in order to talk about a wide range of topics. It’s not clear what their motivations are (some wonder if they are hoping for some softer coverage as a result of increased access), but the important part is that the front office is paying attention.

The Mets aren’t “fixed” as we sit here today. The contracts to Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and to a lesser extent, Carlos Beltran, have restricted the ability of Alderson to be active in free agency this winter. Thus, expectations are low for the 2011 season. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Phillies are the overwhelming favorites in the National League East, so adding one big piece in free agency just for the short-term boost in season ticket sales would be the wrong and cynical strategy. Call it the silver lining of the Cliff Lee signing, but most Mets fans are beginning to recognize that this just isn’t a quick fix situation.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.