Friday, December 24, 2010

The Perfect Pickup: New York Mets

This one’s going to be a little unconventional, so bear with me. However, I think the Mets have already made their best possible move, despite only agreeing to two contracts with a total value of $3.8 million this offseason. No, DJ Carrasco and Ronny Paulino are not the Mets’ perfect pickups. However, the men that brought them into the fold, in my estimation, are the best additions the Mets’ could have made.

In September 2004, Omar Minaya took over as GM of the Mets after coming over from the Expos, where he had held the same position since 2002. In Montreal, Minaya made one of the worst trades in the history of professional baseball, sending prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens to the Indians in exchange for Bartolo Colon. Ouch.

Minaya did have some success in New York (notably, bringing in Johan Santana for Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra), but he mostly made big free agent signings that didn’t pan out and set the farm system a couple steps back. Though they do have a few interesting prospects, the Mets don’t have the team to compete for an NL East title right now (especially with the Phillies’ addition of Cliff Lee), and they don’t appear to have much help on the way from their farm system. For the Mets, the most important goal of the offseason was to begin the process of building a club that can win consistently.

By hiring Sandy Alderson, the Mets did just that. Alderson is one of the most experienced and most well-qualified people in the world for the Mets’ GM job, having been the GM of the A’s from 1983 to 1997. Alderson built one of the strongest minor league systems in baseball during his time in Oakland, with Athletics rookies taking three consecutive AL Rookie of the Year awards in 1986 (Jose Canseco), 1987 (Mark McGwire), and 1988 (Walt Weiss). He also was a very important mentor for his successor, who was promoted from his job as assistant GM when Alderson left to work for the Commissioner’s office. The new GM was a guy named Billy Beane. Guessing you might’ve heard of him.

Alderson brought along with him two more well-respected executives, both former GMs, to assist him in rebuilding the franchise. JP Ricciardi, who worked with Alderson as a special assistant when Alderson was GM in Oakland, became Director of Player Personnel for the A’s when Alderson left. In 2002, Ricciardi left for Toronto to become the GM of the Blue Jays. He held that job until last offseason, when he was fired and replaced by Alex Anthopoulos. Ricciardi will hold the same job in New York that he had in Oakland, acting as a special assistant to Alderson.

Alderson also brought along an executive with whom he’d worked much more recently. Since leaving the Commissioner’s office in 2005, Alderson has acted as CEO of the Padres. It was there that he worked with Paul DePodesta, who moved to San Diego after his 2005 firing from the position of Dodgers GM. DePodesta was the Padres Special Assistant for Baseball Operations and was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2008. He worked closely with Alderson in San Diego, and will continue to do so as the Mets’ new Vice President of Player Development and Scouting.

The Mets haven’t made any big deals that signal that they’re on the way back up or that can help them become contenders for next year. There’s no incoming star or up-and-coming prospect that can singlehandedly save this team. However, by hiring three of the brightest and most well-respected minds in the business of baseball, the Mets have begun the process of climbing back to the top. If anyone can build a team to contend consistently and produce strong big-league results while strengthening the farm system and building a sustainable model for success, it’s Alderson, Ricciardi, and DePodesta; the Mets’ Perfect Pickups. Next time, we'll look at DePodesta's old team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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