Sandy Alderson was blindsided the last time he took a job with the Mets. He felt the owners had not made him fully aware of the financial devastation caused to the Wilpons by their association with
Sandy Alderson was blindsided the last time he took a job with the Mets. He felt the owners had not made him fully aware of the financial devastation caused to the Wilpons by their association with Bernie Madoff.
He had to instantly do the job differently and way more frugally than he had imagined.
So when Steve Cohen approached Alderson about a return as team president, sources said, he accepted under the condition that he would have control of, among other things, shaping baseball operations as he desired. Thus, it was not surprising that the news of Cohen definitively becoming Mets owner Friday was followed a few hours later by a press release revealing that general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was out and so were his main lieutenants.
Alderson did not like his end-game with the Mets in 2018 and will always wonder about how the dominoes fell leading to Jeff Wilpon hiring a friend in Van Wagenen. He stayed silent, his confidants say, because generally that is his nature and also because his son, Bryn, still held an important role in the Mets’ baseball operations.
But if Alderson was to return with power, no way were Van Wagenen and his main associates — Allard Baird, Jarred Banner and Adam Guttridge — going to survive. Alderson never seemed overly comfortable with how tight Omar Minaya was with Fred Wilpon and that Wilpon forced Minaya back into the front office in 2017. Word was that Cohen had an affinity for Minaya. Therefore, that Minaya also was part of this purge screams at the power Cohen has invested in Alderson, who will now assemble a baseball operations department to his comfort.
And with the offseason already umderway, if there ever were a right time and a right team to make such a sea change, the time is now and the team is Cohen’s and Alderson’s Mets, because:
1. Neither Alderson nor Cohen arrives having to play huge catch-up. Many of the players on the team were brought to the organization by Alderson. Many of the front office that remains, including Bryn Alderson, worked for Sandy in his first Mets tenure. Manager Luis Rojas should not be considered safe until a new front office is assembled and they rule on him. But he also was in the organization for Alderson’s entire first term.
Cohen has been a Mets limited partner for eight years and a fan for life. He is aware of the infrastructure, finances and probably has an opinion on every player. This is not an owner buying a team and having to introduce himself to every nuance.
2. COVID-19 wrecked MLB revenue in 2020 and diminishes projections for 2021. This has led to most organizations looking to slash payroll. Cohen comes in as the richest owner in the majors, having lost not one penny in the game in 2020. Thus, the only people more excited than Mets fans to see Cohen bring his largesse to Flushing are player agents, who already are hearing most teams cry poor this free-agent season.
Free agency is expected to move slowly, but even if a significant player were to receive a strong offer, the likelihood is they would check in with the Mets to see if they could get into Cohen’s wallet. In other words, Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, George Springer and just about any other quality free agent will almost certainly wait for Cohen to be ready before signing elsewhere.
Alderson is generally viewed as a financially moderating force on Cohen. But Alderson — despite the staid persona — likes the flashy move. When he was the Athletics’ GM, Alderson once rewarded record contracts to Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco within seven months of each other in 1989-90, and Oakland actually had the majors’ top payroll in 1991.
Alderson likely envisioned such a progression the first time with the Mets, improving the club and raising the payroll steadily. But then he was Madoff-ed, which was a factor during his entire first Mets tenure.
This time, there was no surprising wallop. Alderson arrives with the richest owner, broad powers and no remnants of a Ponzi scheme. He returned by delivering a knockout punch to the baseball operations department that had replaced him. Whether it was vengeance, sound strategy or both, Alderson instantly declared that his Act II is going to be quite different that his Act I.