The Mets again find themselves in the midst of an effort to reshape their front office, less than a year after already making sweeping changes under new owner Steve Cohen. Team president Sandy Alderson temporarily assumed oversight of baseball operations last week as the team put acting GM Zack Scott on administrative leave following a DWI arrest, but there’s little expectation Alderson will return to the top of the baseball ops hierarchy on a full-time basis.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets today that Alderson signed a two-year deal to help Cohen’s ownership transition and front office changes, but he had no desire to return to a full-time baseball operations role. The team’s plan for the 2022 season is to have Alderson return to a broader-reaching team president role without directly running the baseball operations department. A new hire will need to be made, as has already been widely suggested in the wake of Scott’s DWI charge.
Cohen’s Mets were connected to numerous high-profile candidates last year in looking to fill their baseball operations void after parting ways with Brodie Van Wagenen, but several either declined to interview or were denied permission to do so. Teams generally only permit their executives to interview with other clubs if the position is a promotion over their current post. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Rays not only extended general manager Erik Neander but promoted him to president of baseball operations just yesterday; Neander was known to be of interest to the Mets last year.
There’s been quite a bit of recent speculation on Theo Epstein as a candidate. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman all wrote on the topic within the same 24-hour period. Of course, as Rosenthal pointed out, it was Epstein who originally hired both Scott and Jared Porter — the former Mets GM who was fired a month into his tenure last offseason following revelations of past harassment of a reporter. Both joined the Red Sox under Epstein’s watch, and Epstein brought Porter to Chicago not long after being named Cubs president of baseball operations.
The optics of that aren’t necessarily damning, but a cleaner break from that tree might also be welcome. Furthermore, SNY’s Andy Martino wrote this week that nearly everyone he’s spoken to has strongly downplayed the Epstein rumors. All three Epstein columns also mention the possibility that he’d look to secure a minority stake with any team he joins, and Martino suggests the same: that Epstein is seeking a partial ownership opportunity.
Looking around the league, there aren’t many high-profile executives who’d seem like candidates to depart their current post and take on the spotlight of the Mets’ presidency. Twins GM Thad Levine and Indians GM Mike Chernoff both declined the opportunity to interview last offseason. A’s GM David Forst was reported to be of interest to the Mets (and the Angels), but there’s no indication he ever actually interviewed (or even spoke with) either club.
Heyman somewhat speculatively suggests two other executives whose names have been or could be of interest to the Mets: Dodgers senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes and Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. Martino, in similar fashion, listed off three more high-profile execs who’d be making lateral moves and require ownership permission to even interview: Cleveland’s Chris Antonetti, Minnesota’s Derek Falvey and Oakland’s Billy Beane.
Byrnes would make a fairly logical candidate for the Mets to pursue. He’s a high-ranking member of a large-payroll, consistently successful organization, but the Mets’ top baseball ops job would still represent a promotion for him. He’s also served as general manager of both the Padres and the Diamondbacks in the past, so he’s no stranger to running a baseball operations outfit himself. Somewhat coincidentally, Byrnes was the other finalist for the Mets’ GM post back in 2010 when the team ultimately hired Alderson to take over baseball operations.
As for Daniels, he would be making a lateral move, from one president of baseball ops role to another. However, the Rangers also just recently hired Chris Young as their new general manager, and that could be viewed as a means of grooming an eventual heir-apparent for Daniels, who was extended on a contract of still-unreported length back in 2018. Daniels — a Queens native, for what it’s worth — has been running the Rangers’ baseball operations department since being appointed general manager at just 28 years of age in the 2005-06 offseason.
Daniels’ situation bears some similarity to that of Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns, whose name was recently raised in connection with the Mets by ESPN’s Buster Olney. However, there are also some key differences. As is the case with the Rangers, the Brewers just named a new general manager, Matt Arnold, to serve under Stearns (who is, like Daniels, a New York native). The key difference is that Arnold was promoted to GM from within at a time when the Mets were known to be looking to hire a GM; Young was hired by the Rangers from outside the organization. (Although he also interviewed for the Mets’ job last offseason before joining the Rangers.)
Stearns is also newer to the Brewers’ top job than Daniels is to his own post. His contract extension and promotion are both more recent as well. There’s little reason to think Brewers owner Mark Attanasio would be open to allowing Stearns to depart when he’s still under contract another year and when the Brewers have emerged as one of the best teams in all of baseball. The Brewers denied him permission to interview last offseason, Martino notes.
Suffice it to say, speculation already abounds with regard to the Mets’ front office, and that’s before the team has even truly begun its search for a new baseball operations leader in earnest. These names and a dozen or more others will likely be tied to the Mets in the weeks and months to come, before a hire is ultimately made.