We still have plenty of blanks to fill in on Sandy Alderson’s likely return to the Mets, including his exact role. For example, will he be a regular presence in the Citi Field offices, or a trusted advisor from afar? The next weeks and months should provide more answers.
But we can certainly speculate that at 72 years old and with a borderline Hall of Fame career already behind him, Alderson probably wouldn’t agree to come back unless he had real responsibility and influence.
In order for any of this to become final, Steve Cohen must first earn the approval of 23 of 30 MLB clubs in order to become control person of the Mets. As SNY has reported, that is expected despite stiffer than expected resistance from a few owners.
If approval occurs -- and MLB last week was just at the beginning stages of its vetting of Cohen, which will be far more extensive than the process he passed through to become a limited partner with the Mets -- Alderson will likely be in a significant position with the Mets again.
Naturally, the Met fan wants to know the implications of this for the rest of the front office and franchise. It’s a bit early to report that concretely. What follows are a few points of speculation informed by our coverage of the team and familiarity with the organization and relationships within.
The return of a successful former GM in any role would be rare and historic for the franchise
It’s not common for an architect of a past World Series team to leave and later return in a different era -- and it’s worth pausing for a moment to reflect on how significant this would be.
Johnny Murphy was GM in 1969, but died the following year. His replacement, Bob Scheffing, oversaw the 1973 pennant winners but is perhaps best remembered for the Nolan Ryan/Jim Fregosi trade.
Frank Cashen built the great Mets teams of the 1980s, but rode off into the sunset after that team faded. Steve Phillips was GM in 2000, fired in 2003, and went on to enjoy a successful career in broadcasting.
The closest precedent in franchise history was probably when Omar Minaya returned in 2017 as a special advisor. While Minaya did not lead the Mets to a pennant, he constructed excellent teams in the first decade of this century and is regarded highly by much of the fan base. Minaya has his own relationship with Cohen.
Shifting dynamics for Brodie Van Wagenen
Alderson is unlikely to become general manager again. But his arrival would, at the very least, signify an altered power dynamic for Van Wagenen.
When Alderson was GM and Van Wagenen was a high-powered agent, the two had a positive relationship, if not especially close. They spoke well of one another after agreeing to two separate contracts for Yoenis Cespedes.
When the Mets introduced Van Wagenen as GM, he went out of his way to publicly thank Alderson. That gesture did not go unnoticed by Alderson loyalists in the organization.
Still, the pleasant if distant professional relationship between the two will probably not shield Van Wagenen from the change to come. This goes beyond Alderson. Cohen isn’t buying a baseball team to keep everything the same.
For what it’s worth, rival executives and agents who were initially skeptical of Van Wagenen’s appointment to GM have consistently complimented his professionalism and intelligence in interactions over the past two years.
Good news for good baseball people Tommy Tanous, Jim Kelly and Bryn Alderson
Van Wagenen, as any new GM would, made changes at the top when he hired Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge as his top lieutenants. But several key figures in Alderson’s success remained. Now at the very least, Alderson is likely to have Cohen’s ear on who to retain and promote.
Tommy Tanous, whose current title is Senior Advisor, Amateur Scouting, has won raves through the years for his handling of the drafts. Jim Kelly has toggled between scouting, video replay and advance work; he is close to Alderson. Bryn Alderson, Sandy’s son, has not only remained with the club but distinguished himself as director of professional scouting.
Attachment to Alderson could help Cohen with MLB approval
For weeks, we’ve heard persistent speculation in the industry that some other owners are concerned that Cohen will spend wildly on player payroll. This could be awkward during an offseason when most other teams are claiming massive losses due to the COVID economy.
Alderson is known for fiscal discipline, and big spending when necessary. He was GM of the Oakland A’s, an Executive Vice President in the commissioner’s office, and CEO of the San Diego Padres. It will be difficult for any other owner to make a case against Cohen if he is attached to a figure as venerable as Alderson.