Next up on the Mets transition agenda is the hiring of a general manager. There’s no need to look any further than Tampa Bay’s Erik Neander.
The Mets hit a home run during yesterday’s press conference featuring Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson. But now it’s time to settle into what both agreed is required to make the Mets an iconic baseball franchise – hard work.
The Mets’ overall plan is transparent and well-defined. Reconstruct and strengthen the farm system, bring the team’s use of analytics into the 21st Century, and finally, to revitalize a wounded Mets culture and brand.
The thinking goes if you rebuild the Mets in those foundational ways – they will come. “They” meaning fans and free-agent players who will see the Mets as a beacon of success, both on and off the field.
True to his ways as a businessman, Steve Cohen said he would be “disappointed” if the Mets did not win a championship in the next 3-5 years.
Truth be told, he’s hedging his bet, a tactic he invented in his day job, and Cohen is ready to do whatever it takes to put the Mets on the map in the 2021 playoffs, even though he expects to lose as much as $300-400 million this year and the year after.
Mets Alderson: “Sometimes, Just One Person Can Make The Difference”
By definition, Erik Neander can be that one person. Neander is the current general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. He is a former MLB Executive Of The Year winner in 2019, the same year the Rays won the award for Organization Of The Year.
At 37, Neander hails from Oneonta, NY, and a few background notes include:
- He has worked for the Tampa Bay Rays since 2007 and was named senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the team in November 2016
- He was promoted to vice president of baseball operations in October 2014
- Neander is married with two sons and a daughter.
The position the Mets are looking to fill carries the title President of Baseball Operations. A general manager may or may not be added later, but the title’s weightiness suggests what Sandy Alderson confirmed yesterday.
This is that Alderson’s days as a wheeler-dealer heavily involved in the day-to-day additions and subtraction on the Mets is over, and a new skill set is needed to adapt and thrive in the world of baseball we know today.
Yesterday, Alderson made of point of saying the Mets will mostly be shopping the meat and potatoes section when it comes to signing free-agents or acquiring players via trades.
Alderson acknowledged the Mets would also stop by the gourmet section, meaning they will be in on free agents like Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, Marcus Stroman, and George Springer. (photo)
But the primary goal is to find the smaller pieces that become part of the whole in building a pennant-winning team.
Bingo! This is precisely where Neander shines. Let’s talk about meat and potatoes to look at his record with the Rays in trades and how he can bring the same talent to the Mets. Here’s “the beef.”
According to MLB’s Ray’s front office directory, in just over three years as general manager, he and his staff have engineered 51 major league trades involving a total of 132 players, including a club-record 20 trades in 2018.
Of the 40-man roster, 25 players have been acquired since he was appointed GM (and 22 via trade).
Among these players are trade acquisitions Randy Arozarena, Nick Anderson, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Díaz, Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot, José Martínez, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe, and Ryan Yarbrough and free agents Charlie Morton and Yoshi Tsutsugo.
Their 2019 ALDS roster included 18 players acquired on Erik’s watch, 15 of them via trade.
By now, they’re all familiar names as each had answered Neander and Kevin Cash‘s call when no one else would for their modest but often timely contributions to the Tampa Bay team that took it all the way to the World Series this year.
Anyone who has followed the Mets in recent years knows two things: One, the Mets have gotten clobbered in trades, and two, the front office has overestimated the value of free-agents the team has signed.
Need a list – okay, here are a few of those ill-fated trades, signings, and other decisions that’ll make you say – “Huh?”
Nelson Cruz for Jorge Velandia – August 30, 2000.
Melvin Mora for Mike Bordick – July 28, 2000
Jason Vargas signed to a two-year deal with an option for a third
John Mayberry Jr., signed in 2014, hit only .164/.227/.318 for the 2015 Mets.
Non-tendering a contract to Justin Turner in 2013
A day in Mets infamy – November 7, 2012 – the Mets finally released Jason Bay.
And then, of course, there’s Brodie Van Wagenen’s albatross bringing in over the hill Robinson Cano and still looking for himself Edwin Diaz in a trade with Seattle.
Each of these moves by the Mets front office is ingrained in the emotions of any fan who has followed the team over this duration of time.
The good news now is that Mets fans have the support of a newly inaugurated team. Both Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson are unblemished and with remarkable success stories, albeit in two different facets of the business world.
Alderson will be minding the store for Steve Cohen, whose “day job” will keep him away from Citi Field most of the time.
It falls on Alderson, then, to oversee and implement the restructuring of the Mets’ farm system, analytics department, marketing, and brand-building staff.
All while preferably having that “one person” who can not only ease his load but is capable of picking up the ball to run with it – as Erik Neander has proven to do so before.
Mets: Every Moment Counts Now And The Clock Is Ticking
As with the transition for President-Elect Joe Biden, everything changes on January 20, 2021, when he will spend his first night in the White House, awakening to a stroll to the Oval Office where the real work begins.
What was yesterday’s mere speculation now enters real-time, and in the case of Erik Neander, the Mets will be wise to offer an olive branch to a talented and proven baseball man – before someone else does.
Other names will be floated and discussed as someone who can fit the bill as the Met’s “chief baseball operations person,” but the search shouldn’t be complete until Alderson and then Steve Cohen sit down with Eric Neander…
In case you missed it, here are a few excerpts from yesterdays’ press conference with Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson that built the foundation of this story: