Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
Here is what I learned last week, after talking to national reporters, people in front offices and people close to the Mets…
Sandy Alderson wants to significantly move this franchise forward in the next year or so. And, if it doesn’t happen, or if he isn’t allowed to spend a good portion of new money coming off the books because revenue is down again, he may very well choose to leave the team after his contract expires after 2014. He has a club option for 2015.
Alderson was brought here to reboot the baseball operations side of the Mets during a time when he knew resources would be limited. The farm system is starting to take shape and roughly $50 million will come off the payroll at the end of this season. The way I understand it, he took this job knowing it would be difficult for a few years, but it would eventually be easier when money became more available. The plan was to use the first three years to save ownership money, strip things down and assess in-house talent. The next 12 months should be about putting together a legitimate contender, which will ultimately succeed either under his, or someone else’s, leadership. In other words, it has to start soon.
These days, people with other teams have been telling me the Mets are very willing to trade a top pitching prospect, a big-league arm (think Bobby Parnell) and Wilmer Flores, for a young, under-contract hitter. They have talked with teams about Jon Niese over and over again during the last 18 months, and I think they’d consider moving Zack Wheeler in the right deal.
No team can build an entire outfield in one winter, so I think Alderson knows he needs to make an acquisition this summer, regardless of the team’s record. The issue he has is that, as good as Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have been, they’re still too unproven to build a deal around. The buzz on Syndergaard is growing, though, and I see no scenario where he and Wheeler get moved.
The Mets have young pitching that interests other teams, especially if they’re willing to deal Parnell; and they have an opening in payroll after this season. Also, Alderson would prefer to trade for power now, then sign a light-weight leadoff hitter in the winter. So, no doubt, we’re going to hear and see trade rumors this summer connecting the Mets to Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez, Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton, Dodgers OF Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista and 1B/3B Edwin Encarnacion.
It sounds to me like Gonzalez can be had for the right price. The Dodgers will move Ethier, who is having a rough season, though they’re likely to keep Kemp. The Jays will listen to offers for Bautista and Encarnacion, but are far more likely to move these guys in the off season… if they’re going to move them at all. Stanton will cost a fortune, i.e., three or four of your best prospects, since he’s earning little money and pretty much every team (including the Mets) has asked about him.
In reading the tea leaves, Ethier seems like the most likely of the group to end up in Queens, because Los Angeles will eat some of Ethier’s salary to get a better prospect in trade. The Mets really like Gonzalez, but lots of teams are interested and there is still no strong evidence Colorado is dead serious about dealing him.
This past weekend was one of the more disappointing things I’ve seen from this team in quite some time. After sweeping the Yankees four games, with nine games against Nationals and Marlins and a Wheeler promotion on the horizon, I thought maybe they would give us at least a few weeks of fun. Instead, the Mets were swept and embarrassed by the last-place Marlins. Fans were not the only ones disappointed, though. I hear the front office was equally disturbed and frustrated. Hopefully it will motivate the front office to get started on what could end up being Alderson’s swan song.