With the New York Mets essentially in free fall for the last month and a half, speculation has surfaced regarding the future of manager Terry Collins. Collins is on the hot seat for failing to motivate the Mets to improve over last season after making several pricey free agent acquisitions. In spite of the rumors, General Manager Sandy Alderson made it clear to associates that the team's struggles do not fall at Collins' feet, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.
Alderson is quick to point out the Mets should be playing better than they are, given the players they have on the roster. Martino's report cites Alderson's belief that the Mets' run differential of -12 should have the team close to .500, not eight games below .500 like cellar dwellars San Diego (-65), Arizona (-61) and Tampa Bay (-53). Alderson doesn't believe in change for the sake of change either, so it looks as if Collins will be safe for a while. The real question we should look at is who really is to blame for the team's struggles.
While Collins has had his worst year as a manager thus far, Alderson is right to suggest the Mets' woes aren't Collins fault. The Mets' struggles can be traced back directly to Alderson himself. Alderson, particularly in roster management, failed to assemble a team that could truly be a 90 win contender as he predicted back in spring training.
While you have to factor in that Alderson may be under payroll restrictions from ownership, he hasn't spent his limited dollars wisely. Alderson has had difficulty identifying low cost talent throughout his tenure as GM, something that he was lauded for when he took the job. Many assumed that Alderson would be able to help the Mets win using Moneyball tactics, which have helped the Oakland A's win for the last decade with low payrolls.
Alderson, however, has failed repeatedly to find that low cost talent. Alderson has failed for three years running to add effective relievers to the bullpen, an area that should be easy to find on a budget. The Mets have been trying to rely on over the hill veterans on minor league deals hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and buy time for younger arms to develop. The Mets hit on one reliever over four years (LaTroy Hawkins) and then let him go to Colorado last winter for a relatively minor deal.
Alderson has also failed to adequately add to the Mets' offense. Alderson let Jose Reyes depart three years ago for a 100 million dollar contract, which was the right move, and has failed to replace him as either the shortstop or leadoff hitter. Alderson spent the entire 2012 offseason trying to add an outfielder, but let himself get outbid on nearly everyone the Mets targeted. The Mets did get some good fortune by finding Marlon Byrd on the scrap heap, but even that find came as a favor to Byrd's agent.
Byrd hit very well for the Mets last season, who dealt him to Pittsburgh in August along with John Buck for Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Byrd had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Mets, and was reportedly willing to re-sign with them after the season concluded. The Mets passed on the opportunity to re-sign Byrd, who took a modest two year, 16 million dollar contract with the Phillies. Byrd has continued to tear the cover off the ball with the Phillies, hitting .268 with 11 homers and 42 RBI's in 69 games.
Ten days after Byrd signed, the Mets signed outfielder Chris Young to a one year, 7.25 million dollar deal. The Mets touted Young's ability to hit for power, but the signing was criticized after Young's poor season with Oakland the year before (.200, 12, 40). Young has done next to nothing for the Mets, hitting .195 with four homers and 16 RBI's in 2014. Young has found himself pretty much glued to the bench for the last week and a half, and could find himself out of a job once Juan Lagares returns from the disabled list next week.
The Young signing has blown up in Alderson's face, especially considering how productive Byrd has been in Philadelphia for only 750,000 dollars more per season. If the Mets had Byrd hitting fifth in their lineup instead of Chris Young, they probably would have a much better record than they do now. Even if the Mets hadn't signed Byrd, Young's money could have been held for later in the offseason to add a player like Kendrys Morales at an area of need, first base.
This isn't to say Alderson has been a complete bust as the GM. Alderson has shown an ability to obtain significant assets via trade, as he added a number of key prospects in exchange for veterans. The signings of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon have both paid off as well, and Colon will likely be moved for more youngsters if the Mets don't right the ship before the deadline. Alderson did, however, bring a team to spring training with holes at shortstop, first base, in the bullpen, and at backup catcher (a veteran should have been on board to help mentor Travis d'Arnaud and the young pitching staff).
The pressure will be on Alderson to add significant talent to the major league roster at this trade deadline and in the winter. The free agent class at shortstop is very strong, so the Mets have no excuse to run Ruben Tejada out again next season. The Mets also need to find another outfielder to play besides Lagares and Granderson, particularly one who can hit in the middle of the lineup. That may have to come via trade, but if the Mets come into spring training with the same holes as last season Alderson will have only himself to blame.Tags: Baseball, Chris Young, Curtis Granderson, LaTroy Hawkins, Marlon Byrd, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins