New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson Should Build Around David Wright

December 12, 2011

Pretty much all major sports, but especially, baseball, are copycat sports. If something works for one organization, then others follow the lead. However, due to the long history of baseball and the ingrained ideas and traits, it often takes longer for new ideas to be implemented.

Billy Beane began using low cost players who had high value qualities, but after MoneyBall came out, every team followed suit. And because Beane doesn’t know much about on field talent, the Oakland A’s stink once again.

Since the Yankees were always in the playoffs, they have not had many top of the draft picks. Brian Cashman began taking high upside talent in later rounds, then offering them bigger bonuses to sign. David Robertson was one such pick in 2006, and Dellin Betances was plucked away from a Vanderbilt scholarship using that same method in the same ’06 draft. Teams then began following suit with higher bonuses for top talent taken in later rounds.

The Texas Rangers have made the World Series for two consecutive seasons, with a potent offense and a good bullpen, but without a true ace pitcher who can be the proverbial shutdown guy, thus helping to avoid long losing streaks. Most of the best teams in baseball have an ace, but Texas won the past two seasons without one. C.J. Wilson was not an ace and the Rangers pounded their opponents into submission quite often.

Many people believe the 2012 New York Mets will not contend for a playoff spot, and include me as one of them. Not because they are devoid of talent, because some of their young guys are pretty good, but primarily due to the strength of the other teams within their division.

The Phillies have a great rotation and despite some aging, no current shortstop, and injury issues to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (likely out for the 2012 season), they still have enough talent to earn a postseason spot. Plus, GM Ruben Amaro appears to make moves which improve their team, like signing their homegrown talent, trading for three top pitchers, and then signing Lee again last year.

The Atlanta Braves have good young talent, and except for a late season collapse, would have made the postseason. And they have good young pitching in the minors, and are willing to give them ample chances to pitch. They are good like that. Maybe Fredi Gonzalez shouldn’t overwork his top three bullpen guys as much, though.

The Washington Nationals are improving, have a good young mound duo in Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, both of who came back very strong from Tommy John surgery. They also have an owner with a ton of money and an itch to win before his D-Day. They could use a young, lefty power bat…

The Miami Marlins are also better with the three big free agent splashes in Heath Bell, Jose Reyes* and Mark Buehrle joining a young core of Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, and Mike Stanton.

*It is amazing that the Mets lost one of their franchise players and are not even getting a first round pick back in return. Since the Marlins have the 9th pick in the 2012 draft, that pick is protected. The Mets will get the Marlins 2nd round pick plus the supplemental pick. Biggest problem with not trading Reyes at last year’s trade deadline was Sandy Alderson not seeing the variable of a bad team with a top pick signing Reyes. Tough thing to predict, but doesn’t a GM and his people have to look for every possibility?

Since the Mets were not so good last season, lost Reyes, and are unsure whether Johan Santana (a huge Minaya mistake) will pitch in 2012, they are not supposed to be good this year either. With those factors and with every other team in the division having better rosters, it is a perfect time to stick with the kids who began to produce last year and made the 2011 Mets somewhat fun to watch.

Since the team might be a last place squad, many Mets fans and pundits want the last bastion of their quality teams from 2006-2008, David Wright, to be traded. They want more trades like the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal; to get younger, cheaper talent to try and win in 2014 and beyond. The Mets GM is actively looking to make trades but has indicated David Wright is not getting dealt.

And that is a very smart move.

Sandy Alderson has seen what has recently helped teams win. In 2010, it was a very strong top three in the rotation (and dominant bullpen) which propelled the San Francisco Giants, and then he saw the Arizona Diamondbacks use good, young starters (and a dominant bullpen) to win the NL West in 2011.

And he also saw the aforementioned Texas Rangers win with a solid, but not great rotation, great power lineup (and dominant bullpen) to win the AL Pennant the past two years. He also saw the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Rangers in the 2011 World Series with a mediocre rotation and a dominant bullpen.

As I mentioned earlier, MLB is a copycat league. Without a solid top three in the 2012 rotation, Alderson has smartly used his limited resources to secure a solid bullpen. He signed former closer Jon Rauch and current closer Frank Francisco and traded for Ramon Ramirez, who was a big part of that 2010 Giants World Series bullpen.

The Mets 2011 bullpen had a 4.33 ERA, ranked 28th of the 30 major league teams. These bullpen additions should help improve those numbers. With holdovers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato, who will not be pressured to get key outs late, the Mets now have a nice stable of power arms.

And despite Reyes’ departure, Alderson also sees a pretty good power offense. With Ike Davis (ankle), Lucas Duda (concussion) and David Wright (back) healthy again, and Jason Bay (another Minaya mistake) still in the fold, the Mets have four sluggers who might combine for 80-100 HRs. Add in a healthy Daniel Murphy, who is a solid hitter, and there are five guys who can drive in runs.

The key is health as none of the above players, except Bay, had 450 plate appearances in 2011.

Alderson performed magic when he shortened the Citi Field dimensions, likely adding power numbers to each of the hitters, but especially Wright, who has acknowledged the previously larger dimensions have hurt his numbers. By stating that Wright was not available in a trade and moving the fences in, Alderson clearly has indicated he wants Wright to remain a Met. Look for Alderson to try and extend Wright early next year.

And like the Texas Rangers have with Elvis Andrus, the 2012 will have a young shortstop, known for his glove, but has improved on the other side of the ball. His on base skills have clearly improved and he showed a knack for getting key hits.

Ruben Tejada should not be forced to win the shortstop job in spring training. He should be given the job prior to spring training. Let him have the knowledge that he will be the glue of a solid infield, which will give him immense confidence. Keith Hernandez always said the key to his 1979 NL MVP season was that his manager, Ken Boyer, told him no matter what happened early in the season, he was still going to be the Cardinal first baseman.

The overall key to the Mets future is definitely the young starters still in the minors, guys like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and possible Michael Fulmer, last year’s second round pick.

But to win now and stay competitive in 2012 and 2013, the Mets need to punish opponents on offense, keep the game close and win it late with a solid bullpen. That formula will not work every time in Citi Field, but it has shown to consistently win games for teams around the league.

But the offense needs to stay healthy, too, and Wright needs to wipe away his past demons and know he has a pretty good supporting cast, and need not do it alone.

The time to trade Wright was a few years ago, when the Boston Red Sox desperately needed a third baseman and actually had quality young talent to trade. Here is a Wright trade proposal I made two seasons ago.

Not moving Wright is just another sickly feather in Omar Minaya’s cap, probably the worst GM in the history of baseball.

Since Wright can void the last year of his current deal if he is traded, if the Mets tried to trade Wright they would not get a Beltran-type return, let alone a Dan Haren or Mark Teixeira type return. While, those types of trades could occur as recently as two years ago, those deals are never going to happen anymore as teams are over-valuing their young players. Wright is best served to stay in New York.

Alderson knows this and is making the smart move, for the team this season and for the Mets future.

Trade David Wright: New York Mets Need to Make a Move for the Future

July 7, 2009

There has been much criticism for Omar Minaya this year regarding the lack of a move in getting a hitter for the depleted, injury-ravaged New York Mets lineup. With injuries to Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, the Mets are left with only David Wright, a 40-year-old Gary Sheffield, and a bunch of “he doesn’t scare me” type of hitters.

I have been critical of Minaya in the past, primarily for his lack of building farm systems as GM of the Mets and, after he was given the GM job for the Montreal Expos, making inexcusable trades by the boatload.

Notice how many proven major leaguers Minaya has traded away, including Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Orlando Cabrera.

This piece has been in the hopper for two weeks, but after a terrible 10-game stretch where they went 2-8, it merits even more consideration. After taking three of four from the (at that time) first-place St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets were only a half game out of first place.

The Phillies had lost 14 of 18 games and were receiving terrible pitching, Raul Ibanez was injured, and Jimmy Rollins was mired in a huge slump.

The Mets were ready to make their move towards first place.

Except a little thing happened on the way to a World Series title.

The Mets remembered they had a minor league lineup surrounding David Wright, their starting pitching (outside of Johan Santana) was terrible, and their bullpen is hit or miss on any given day.

Even their most reliable bullpen arm, Frankie Rodriguez, has been inconsistent lately. Over his last seven appearances, K-Rod has allowed eight hits, five earned runs, and seven walks in 7.1 IP, and has blown two saves

Throw in shoddy defense and awful fundamental baseball, and you realize this is not a good baseball team.

Their recent bad stretch started with being swept at home versus the New York Yankees, where the combined score was 18-3. The minor league lineup was impotent, but the pitching was not good either.

That is the rub: The Mets fans want Omar Minaya to make a move for another bat to improve the lineup, but the Mets will never win if they do not get better starting pitching.

The current Met starters are Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, and Tim Redding. That is one great pitcher, one up and down youngster, and three journeymen.

That is not the making of a postseason rotation, and even Santana has looked well…un-Santana-like lately. His last seven starts have returned a 2-5 record, 5.61 ERA, and 1.43 WHIP.

Please do not tell me about his lack of run support. The job of a starting pitcher is to win games—not to have the best WHIP or ERA or FIP, but to win games for your team. Santana has not done that consistently this year. To his credit, he has 16 decisions, but he needs to begin outdueling the other starter.

Now with Santana normalized and everybody else iffy, when are the Mets likely to put a good stretch together that gets them back into the race?

Is the return of Oliver Perez going to brighten everybody’s day in Metland? Definitely not.

Perez has always been a head case, and now with the guaranteed three-year, $36 million contract, he is even more so.

When is John Maine going to return? He is not yet throwing, and if he does return, will it be the usual inconsistent Maine who has that terrible inning every game?

Maine is a pitcher who does just enough to keep you thinking he is really good, but when you see the end result, it is almost never good.

Their home park is designed to be a pitcher’s park, so the Mets need to design their team to fit their ballpark. Getting better, more consistent starting pitching and getting better defensively will help the Mets more than adding a big bat to a AAA lineup.

The Mets do not have a good starting rotation, and there is no real help on the horizon unless they take drastic steps to improve their team to their ballpark.

The worst thing for the Mets (and Omar) to do is panic and make a move for a bat that will not help them this season.

Eventually Reyes will be back, and likely Beltran too, but probably not Delgado. Even if all three came back next week completely healthy, the Mets rotation is still an inconsistent wreck.

The second-worst thing for the Mets is to go on an improbable little run where they win seven of 10 after the All-Star break, giving the team (and the fans) hope that they could recreate the aura of the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe team.

But that team had great pitching. This 2009 Met team does not.

The same thing happened to the Yankees last year. They went on an eight-game winning streak after the break and thought they could come back and overtake both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

They made the big trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, but the Yankees were without the big bats of Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and did not have the starting pitching to keep in the race.

The 2009 Mets should not make the same mistake the 2008 Yankees did. The Mets should make a move, but make it for pitching, and not to try to win this season, but to win in the future. Instead of trading for a bat, the Mets should trade a bat, and trade their best bat, because that will get you more value for the future.

Under Minaya’s tenure, the Mets have always played for this season and to win now. Now, it is time to change course and build for the future.

The future is with a potent rotation based upon good young arms that, while pitching half their games in spacious Citi Field, will not be afraid to throw strikes.

The Mets should pursue a trade with the Boston Red Sox that sends third baseman David Wright and Fernando Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Clay Buchholz, AA 1B Lars Anderson, and any two of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden.

This trade does three things.

First, it improves the stable of young major league-ready arms for the Mets. Second, it gets the Mets their power hitting first baseman of the future. Third, it kills the Mets’ crosstown rival New York Yankees, who see the Red Sox improve an already potent lineup with the addition of the power-hitting Wright.

Just imagine the righty-hitting David Wright in Fenway banging line drives off and hitting towering drives over the Green Monster, and doing it in a big series against the Yankees!

The Met fans will enjoy their take of the loot too, as Buchholz and Masterson/Bowden step right into the rotation, and Ellsbury provides a solid leadoff hitter and great defense.

Ellsbury at the top allows Reyes to move into the middle of the lineup, where his 190-plus hits every year will plate 120 runs, many of them scored by Jacoby.

Anderson is a big power hitter, providing necessary power for the Mets for years to come. He should be ready for the majors next year, and whoever loses the first base battle between Anderson and maybe Ike Davis, the Mets’ first-round pick last season, moves to a corner outfield spot or is trade bait for more pitching.

Ellsbury is a proven major leaguer, something the Mets do not yet have in the young but talented Martinez.

F-Mart’s youth and their potent lineup allow the Red Sox to groom him slowly for center. The 20-year-old would get a few months of seasoning in AAA and would be brought back up in September.

The Mets would be wise to explore this option soon, as the Cleveland Indians have scouted the Red Sox’s minor league system in anticipation of the Sox making a run at Indians catcher Victor Martinez.

The Red Sox need extra offense, and by getting the powerful Wright to play third, they can move Kevin Youkilis back to his comfortable first base, having cornerstones at first and third through the year 2013, which are club options for each player.

The Mets can fill their third base need with a free agent in the offseason for a one or two-year deal.

The future at third, however, is currently a shortstop in the Mets system. Wilmer Flores is only 18 but currently stands at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. This is an Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken type of physical stature, and it will be more beneficial for him and the Mets if he switched over to third base.

Flores is very adept with the bat, and although he does not walk too much yet (only a .325 OBP at Low A), he also does not strike out much (only 38 K’s in almost 300 PA).

With the big park a major factor and the lack of quality arms in their system, the Mets need to merge the two. That means trading their big bat in David Wright for some proven speed and defense (Ellsbury) and some power arms to build up their stable of pitching talent.

Combining these pitchers with 23-year-old Jonathan Niese, having a good season at Triple A, the Mets can be a force in the National League East for years and help bury the crosstown rival Yankees in the same process.