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Now in his fifth offseason as General Manager of the Mets, Sandy Alderson has a large enough sample size of free agent signings for us fans and critics to pass judgment. Following the 2010 season, Alderson was hired as GM and brought with him a dream team of lieutenants in former Toronto Blue Jays GM JP Riciardi and former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta.

Expectations were high for this Ivy League leadership to turn the ship around. So far, while the group has engineered some smart trades and done a nice job of restocking the farm system, their free agency record has been spotty at best. While this offseason still has a few weeks to go, here’s one writer’s grading on Alderson’s five cracks at MLB free agency thus far.

Offseason #1 (2010-2011)

In the wake of the Madoff scandal, decreasing attendance and Perez and with Castillo still on the books, Alderson did not have a lot of money to spend, however he had a lot of roster spots to fill. He and his underlings carefully targeted reclamation projects, looking for a diamond in the rough. In short order, the following players were either signed as free agents or picked up on waivers: relievers DJ Carasco, Taylor Buchholz, Blaine Boyer, Tim Byrdak, Dale Thayer and former Met phenom Jason Isringhausen; starters Chris Capuano, Chris Young and Justin Hampson; catcher Ronny Paulino, outfielder Scott Hairston and pinch hitter extraordinaire Willie Harris. Second baseman Brad Emaus and reliever Pedro Beato were also added through the Rule 5 draft and veteran reliever Miguel Batista and outfielder Mike Baxter were picked up midseason.

Not the most exciting offseason as their were no big names added, however there was a lot of roster churning. Among the pitchers, Isringhausen, Capuano and Young showed they still had something left in the tank, Byrdak proved to be a dependable loogy and Beato had his moments early on before fading. The rest were all busts, most notably DJ Carasco, who didn’t come cheap and had previous success in Pittsburgh. Despite a lot of hope and hype, Emaus was a total bust. Paulino, Harris and Baxter all contributed but were not brought back the following season. Hairston proved a revelation with 20 homers in limited duty, but was allowed to leave via free agency after the season.

All in all, Alderson’s first foray into free agency as Mets’ GM was a mixed bag with hits and misses. Given his limited resources critics gave him the benefit of the doubt, noting that the following offseason would be more telling. Grade: B

Offseason #2 (2011-2012)

In his second off-season, Alderson had two goals – further cleanse the roster and shore up a weak bullpen. He took care of the former by ridding the clubhouse of some fringe players like Ryota Igarashi, livecards Al Etiqueta Etiqueta livecards Twitter Al, Pat Misch, Nick Evans, Chin-lung Hu, Tobi Stoner, Josh Stinson, and the disappointing Fernando Martinez. Despite their previous season’s contributions, Alderson chose not to resign Harris, Isringhausen, Paulino and Capuano. He also cut the cord with the underperforming Buchholz and Thayer. During the season, the Mets also cut ties with Chris Schwinden and Batista.

Alderson made a number of bench player signings in Vinny Rotino, Ronny Cedeno, Fred Lewis, Omar Quintanilla and Rob Johnson. To get a better handle on closing out games, Alderson bolstered the bullpen with the signings of former Blue Jays Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, as well as veteran Garret Olsen and the surprisingly released Jeremy Hefner.

Hefner, despite later encountering arm injuries, turned out to be a real find as a young starter with upside. Olsen, Fransisco and Rauch all proved to be free agent busts, though Rauch did have one strong stretch. Meanwhile, Rotino and Quintanilla were released midseason, Lewis proved to be washed up. Cedeno and Johnson contributed, but were not brought back the following season.

All in all, Alderson’s second shot at free agency was a failure. He had a few bucks to spend and just chose the wrong guys. Given Riciardi’s familiarity with the former Blue Jays, this was especially disappointing. Grade: F

Offseason #3 (2012-2013)

Again, Alderson would do most of his shopping in the bargain basement as limited finances would limit payroll additions. Since he didn’t accomplish his goal of solidifying his relief corps the previous season, Alderson would take another crack at it. He handed pink slips to Garret Olsen, Manny Acosta, Jon Rauch and Elvin Ramirez and looked to improve upon their contributions by adding the free agents Greg Burke, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Aaron Laffey, Scott Atchison, Latroy Hawkins, David Aardsma, Brandon Lyon and old friend Pedro Feliciano. The thinking was, there was strength in numbers and spring training competition would surely uncover a few pleasant surprises.

Alderson’s biggest free agent signing was Shaun Marcum, a former phenom with the Blue Jays (how original!) looking to bounce back from injuries. The Mets ponied up $4 million for their Mike Pelfrey replacement, with hopes that it was a smart gamble. Pelfrey best known for licking his palms on the mound was released as he hit free agency while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Alderson also took a flier on Marlon Byrd, a solid hitting outfielder coming off a down year. A new backup catcher was also brought on board in Anthony Recker and backup shortstop Omar Quintanilla was brought back for another tour on the Mets.

To make room for the new additions, Alderson opted not to resign or outright release his recent signings Lewis, Emaus, Johnson, Cedeno, Young and Hairston, as well as Torres and Ramirez – the pair they traded Angel Pagan for – who both later resigned with San Francisco. Also released were Kelly Shoppach, Danny Herrera, Val Pascucci, Jack Egbert, and finally Jason Bay. Alderson also cut ties with Lyon midseason.

Marcum turned out to be a losing gamble, going 0–9 with a 5.76 ERA in his first 11 starts. Following one good start and a few relief appearances, Marcum was shut down with a shoulder injury and subsequently released. However, the entire offseason was not a bust, as a few of the relievers turned out to be keepers in Rice, Torres and Hawkins, who showed he could still bring the heat at age 40. Along with Rice and Torres, Recker has managed to stick with the team since his signing. Alderson also smartly picked up Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka late in the season to fill in for injured pitchers. Both proved to be solid contributors. Grade C

Offseason #4 (2013-2014)

With some long awaited dead salary coming off the books, at long last, Alderson would have some money to spend and fans were champing at the bit. Quickly out of the gate, Alderson signed former Yankee slugger Curtis Granderson to bat cleanup behind David Wright, veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and centerfielder Chris Young. He simultaneously cut the cord with Mike Baxter, Robert Carson, Greg Burke, Latroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison and the popular Justin Turner.

Rush Ravens Color Jersey Ravens The latter proved to be a mistake, as did the rash signing of Young to a $7.25 million one-year deal. Noone else appeared to be pursuing him and Alderson pounced on him like he found a $20 bill on the sidewalk. Young was a complete bust, striking out at an alarming rate and really failing to get going at any point. Following a lot of fan booing and media pressure, Alderson finally released him mid-season.

While Matt Harvey spent the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Colon admirably filled in, contributing over 200 innings, 15 wins and some of the most entertaining at bats in Mets history. Now entering his last season as a Met, the big man will hold down a rotation spot until Noah Syndergaard is ready at mid-season. Depending on the rest of the rotation’s health, Colon may be trade bait at the all-star break. This proved to be a good signing.

One year into his four year, $60 million contract, the jury is still out on Curtis Granderson. By all accounts, his first Mets season was disappointing, however 20 home runs was not quite Jason Bay/Chris Young bad. Now with the right field wall brought in and his old hitting coach from the Yankees, Kevin Long, brought on board, there’s hope the lefty will rebound. While it’s not likely he’ll ever hit 40 homers at Citi Field, 30 is not out of the realm of possibility. Grandy should also fare better defensively as a move to left field will diminish the focus on his weak throwing arm.

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How Grandy ultimately performs this season could swing this grade in either direction, but for now…Grade: B

Offseason #5 (2014-2015)

To the surprise of many, Alderson was quick out of the gate, signing veteran slugger Michael Cuddyer to a 2-year contract worth $21 million. Known as a great clubhouse guy who hit for average and power in Minnesota and Colorado, Cuddyer has seen time in the outfield, as well as at first base and DH. With the failure of the Chris Young experiment and the struggles of Lucas Duda against left handed pitchers, the signing makes sense on the surface. The fact that Cuddyer is a good friend of David Wright’s certainly encouraged the signing as well.

If Cuddyer can stay reasonably healthy for two seasons at age 36 and 37, this will look like a smart signing. However, the odds are stacked against him given his recent injury history.

Alderson’s other signing this offseason was the former Philadelphia Phillie John Mayberry, Jr. to a one year, $1.45 million contract. The outfielder/first baseman offers the Mets another right handed bat off the bench, however, as this writer has pointed out previously, the limited player could easily be thrust into regular duty with an injury to the aging Cuddyer, acrobatic Juan Legares, Granderson or Duda.

With only one big name free agent remaining (James Shields) who doesn’t appear to be on our radar, it’s safe to say Alderson’s off-season free agent signing is done, or very close to it. It all comes down to Cuddyer’s health. That’s the $21 million question. Grade: D

Rush Ravens Color Jersey Ravens Many fans and writers, myself included, had high hopes of Alderson and company engineering a smart trade from our surplus of pitching for a big bat, a true leadoff hitter or a proven shortstop. So far, Alderson has been gun shy, perhaps because his weak track record in free agency allows for no margin of error with his trades.

13 comments for “Sandy Alderson’s signings: Good, bad and meh

  1. TexasGusCC
    January 30, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Correction for offseason #1: Mike Baxter was here until 2012, when he caught the fly ball to “save” Santana’s no hitter, then tripped into the wall hurting his shoulder and becoming famous.

    You know what’s missing from your breakdown? The SS that Alderson openly said he wanted to get after the 2012 season, oh yea and the 2013 season. At least this year we have another name, like it or not, because if Tejada was the starter again, fans would have kidnapped him.

  2. James Preller
    January 30, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Signing free agents is such a difficult thing to do — the inflated cost & contracts, the general uncertainty — that no GM can expect a strong track record. If you spend, it’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes.

    It’s also inevitable that many fans will dredge up those mistakes endlessly, inflating them beyond reason. Omar getting killed for Castillo, Perez, Bay (not without a degree of justice).

    The trick is that teams must recognize the potential failure — the concept of sunk costs — and show a willingness to move on if a signing doesn’t work out. With a low budget team like the Mets, that’s a tough (but still necessary) pill to swallow. Screwing up on Chris Young was forgivable; continuing to play him was not.

    I think the biggest disappointment here has been Alderson’s failure on the fringes; he has not done well in finding under-valued players. There’s been no R.A. Dickey signings. That was part of his myth coming into the job, that he was sharper than the other GMs, and that’s not been true. He’s been steady and patient, willing to sacrifice the short-term — and millions of dollars of revenue — in order to slowly, painstakingly build the farm system. Which he’s done, to his credit.

    But when it comes to spending the money he’s got in his pocket? He’s not been successful.

    • January 30, 2015 at 10:38 am

      I agree with most of what you say.

      Making R.A. Dickey the standard that Alderson needed to meet or exceed with under-valued players is tremendously unfair. Yet Marlon Byrd, with the production he had while here and what he brought in when dealt, has to be considered an unqualified success in this regard. Carlos Torres was another excellent pickup on the cheap. Jeremy Hefner pitched like an SP2 for about 1/3 of a season before getting hurt. Carlyle and Eveland were strong, cheap additions last year.

      Certainly I wish he had more success in this area. While his lack of trades for the current team and his (relatively) big free agent signings are black marks against him, my take is that his work in cheap additions to the club does not fall to that level.

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  3. Matt Netter
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    January 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Great point about RA Dickey setting an unreasonable standard. Sometimes you get lucky and find a winner on the cheap and I get that this penny stock approach requires a lot of missed gambles. But these are mostly non-guaranteed contracts so no harm, no foul.

    What gets me is the misses on the real FAs, particularly in the bullpen – Frank Francisco?! I also don’t get the lack of ingenuity and originality – how many times do we keep going back to the Blue Jays? It seems like every FA we’ve signed and player we’ve traded for is from 1 of 3 teams. Between our 3 GMs we can’t establish dialogue with some other agents and GMs?

    Trading veterans at the deadline for prospects is the easy part. Finding the right mid-priced FAs (like the Red Sox always do) and making the right package trades for veterans is where the creativity is needed.

  4. BK
    January 30, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    This all goes back to the Wilpons. A team in NY should have the ability to supplement its roster via free agency.

    And any offseason that has the words “biggest offseason acquisition” and “Shawn Marcum” in the same sentence deserves no better than a D. Otherwise these grades are spot on.

  5. Matt Netter
    January 30, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I think the bulk of the blame belongs with ownership but given that we have 3 ivy league GMs, you’d think we’d have pulled off a few more smart moves

  6. Rush Ravens Color Jersey Ravens Metsense
    January 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Sandy Alderson currently has four free agents on the team, Granderson, Cuddyer, Colon and Mayberry totalling around $38M in expenditures. The bottom line is that we could have gotten a bigger bang for our $38M.
    Now couple that with an $8M dollar walk year second baseman and a $5M starting sixth pitcher and that totals $51M of payroll. $51M of restructuring and trades could go a long way with this team with an innovative front office.
    “Trading veterans at the deadline for prospects is the easy part. Finding the right mid-priced FAs (like the Red Sox always do) and making the right package trades for veterans is where the creativity is needed” correctly sums up the Alderson era. Good point Matt and I appreciate the research and analysis of the article.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      January 31, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      And look at the ages of those free agent signings. That’s a lot of money going to guys who seemingly will all be gone once the team gets competitive for the long haul. These 2-4 year veteran signings are just hampering the recovery process it seems. I hope Alderson and company start using that money coming off the books the next two and three years to start locking these younger guys up.

  7. Jkobil
    January 31, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Matt

    Too generous with your grades. Only one F? The real problems are the Wilpons and their relationship with the outgoing commissioner. I’m beginning to think that Jeff W and James Dolan must be related.

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    • NormE
      January 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Not a fan of Dolan, but he has kept his hands off the Rangers and allowed Sather to make them competitive. Maybe it’s because he realizes he knows diddly-squat about hockey. As for the Knicks, I guess a little self-perceived knowledge is a dangerous thing.
      Li’l jeffy has a public image of being small-minded, meddling and not very smart.
      I thought I would never say this but in the race for worst owner the Wilpon prodigy beats the Dolan prodigy.

    • Matt Netter
      February 1, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      Rush Ravens Color Jersey Ravens You draw an excellent parallel with the Knicks. Similarly, Phil Jackson hasnt lived up to expectations yet, however, unlike Alderson he hasn’t had over 4 years to make an impact.

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