Sandy Alderson made 2 major announcements in his Zoom call with reporters yesterday–one was expected and the other was a bit surprising.
He formally announced that Luis Rojas will be the manager of the 2021 Mets which he had pretty much ascertained in an earlier press conference but the official status became important yesterday on the heels of his second announcement.
The team is re-focusing the job search from a head of baseball ops to a General Manager search as Sandy did not have access to speak to the candidates he desired to chat with because they were under contract with other teams and he did not get access to meeting with them.
This is interesting on a number of levels. On the Rojas news, this was a no brainer to me because I firmly believe he did a good job managing the Mets in 2020 under horrific circumstances battling a pandemic and a number of injuries as well as opt outs. Rojas really did a great job developing young players like Andres Gimenez and Dom Smith and his game plan with players like Edwin Diaz helped players improve and grow into those that will be a big part of the 2021 core of players. His communication skills are outstanding and his honest and genuine approach fits neatly in this new ownership as that seems to be a skill that can be seem from top to bottom of the organization with this change in ownership.
Tweaking the search from a head of baseball ops to a GM makes total sense to me as well. I firmly believe you find a GM and evolve that person into head of baseball ops growing in the organization laying the foundation in a GM role in their first 12 months on the job. And in the interim, Sandy can assume the role until he hires a candidate.
I say that because Sandy is a terrific baseball executive who has built teams in a myriad of fashions such as low payroll, high payroll and a hybrid of the 2 when he built a pennant winning team in 2015 against the backdrop of Madoff issues. He is well respected in the baseball community and already has relationships with general managers and player agents making it easy for him to execute deals in this interim role.
Where this could get tricky is how much would a new GM want to construct off-season plans on their own versus picking up the plan in mid-stream? And that includes retaining Rojas as manager but Sandy indicated that every candidate he has already spoken to agreed that Rojas as the 2021 manager was the way to go.
Sandy also discussed 2 real interesting issues–The Cano suspension and what he expects the 2021 schedule to look like. On the schedule issue, he talked about how much the Covid vaccines could be employed being a key factor to starting spring training on time. As for Cano, he admitted it gives the Mets some payroll flexibility but cautioned us to understand contract commitments to Cano still exist beyond 2021. And he properly noted that roster flexibility of current players minus Cano on the roster was a key point in the Cano suspension to consider as well.
In his previous tenure with the Mets, Sandy pounced on a deal when he needed to do that and was patient when he needed to be as well. And he did all of that with payroll constraints which no longer exist. And for that reason I firmly believe Sandy can assume the GM role as part of his job description for a prolonged period of time giving the organization the time to pick the right general manager who can eventually grow into a head of baseball ops.
When Steve Cohen bought this team his first huge decision was to hire a president and when he chose Sandy he knew building a baseball ops team could take time. And he hired the right man because Sandy has done all of the jobs that they are looking to fill and rather than rush through the hiring process, he knew the presence of Sandy would allow the process to evolve without creating deadline hire dates.
It was the first of many brilliant moves we will see from Cohen who not only has great business sense but understands getting the right people on the bus is not just a turn the key process–it can be evolutionary in nature which is what we are seeing right now.
As an owner we can readily see Cohen gives equal attention to the short and long term plans and that is why Sandy fits neatly in this organization. His skills are portable and run deep into every aspect of this sport.
Please listen to Sandy’s Zoom presser edited by Rich Coutinho