Why Mets should talk to Giants exec Brian Sabean for president of baseball ops job

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Brian Sabean - close-up shot from 2014, wearing black jacket
Brian Sabean - close-up shot from 2014, wearing black jacket

Just because high-profile candidates Theo Epstein and Billy Beane said "no thanks" doesn’t mean the Mets should give up on the idea of hiring an experienced president of baseball operations.

After all, Brian Sabean could well be available.

The former top baseball executive for the San Francisco Giants never had Brad Pitt portray in him in a movie, but he does outnumber Beane in championships 3-0. That should count for something.

Sabean, 65, enjoyed great success during an 18-year run as GM of the Giants that included championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014, and then he opted to relinquish day-to-day duties to Bobby Evans, while becoming executive VP of baseball operations. However, three straight losing seasons from 2016-2018 convinced upper management to hire Farhan Zaidi as the new head of baseball operations.

Essentially the Giants opted for a more analytics-driven executive in Zaidi, while Sabean had a reputation for being more of an old-school GM who relied heavily on scouting to guide the organization’s decision-making.

And though Sabean, who earned raves as a scout/exec with the Yankees in the 1980s and early ‘90s, remains with the Giants in a lesser capacity, people who know him say he’d be interested in taking another shot as the primary decision-maker in an organization.

“He’s exactly the kind of guy the Mets need to bring some stability to their front office,” a rival exec told me.

“Will today’s use of analytics be an issue?” I asked.

“That’s overstated,” the exec said. “The Giants may not have been as analytics-heavy as some other organizations but it’s not like they weren’t using information. All I know is he built winning teams and however they were doing it, that front office had a knack for finding players who were at their best when it counted most. That didn’t happen by accident.”

Added another long-time acquaintance of Sabean:

“He has a great feel for the game and for people. His leadership skills are what stood out. He can adapt to the other stuff.”

Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean speaks to the crowd during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean speaks to the crowd during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s also a chance that hiring Sabean could mean getting the currently retired Bruce Bochy as manager, considering they worked together during those championship years with the Giants.

In any case, the Mets ought to at least talk to Sabean. Sources insist any perception that Sandy Alderson would be a deterrent is wrong, that he’s willing to step aside on the baseball side of the organization if an experienced baseball man is hired to take over.

Furthermore, all indications are that owner Steve Cohen is making the decision and not Alderson. And the sense among people close to the situation is that with Beane and Epstein out of the equation, and the Mets unable to get permission to talk to the Brewers’ David Stearns, Cohen is inclined to bring in a younger executive.

That seemingly means someone who can call the role of GM a promotion, rather than an already-established GM who would need to be hired as president of baseball operations.

All of that is mostly semantics pertaining to an executive having the right to leave his current job, but what’s significant is that a hire of a younger exec could mean Alderson would have to stay more involved in the baseball decision-making while the new GM grows into the job.

To what extent might be uncertain. Sources say Alderson was comfortable giving acting GM Zack Scott a lot of freedom - Scott pushed for the Javier Baez deal, for example - before his DWI arrest in September led to him being placed on administrative leave.

And now, because of the Scott incident as well the hiring and firing of GM Jared Porter - after Porter’s past sexual harassment of a female reporter came to light - there is some question about how much Cohen trusts Alderson to make a big hire or dictate roster decisions anymore.

Sandy Alderson speaks with the Media on Sept. 29, 2021
Sandy Alderson speaks with the Media on Sept. 29, 2021

So who is making the calls at a time when the Mets need a manager as well as front-office decision-makers, not to mention a re-tooling of the roster after two underachieving seasons?

That question is at the root of a perception among rival execs that the Mets are in something of a chaotic state. One person notes that with Porter gone and Scott out of the picture, the only baseball people in the front office under Alderson are his son Bryn and former minor league director Ian Levin, both recently promoted to the position of assistant GM.

“I can’t speak to the GM/owner dynamic,” says one person who knows Alderson well,
“but I know that Sandy doesn’t have baseball people around him who will challenge him on decisions, and I think any GM needs that.”

That lack of front-office experience, meanwhile, is the primary reason the Mets went into this latest search looking for both a president of baseball operations and a GM.

It’s also why people who know Sabean seem convinced he’d be a great hire.

“He has the connections to put some good people in place,” one person close to him said. “He’s good at gathering opinions and making the big decision. And he could groom someone to take over in a few years.”

Says another exec: “What the Mets need isn’t necessarily a whiz-kid who’s good with analytics as much as they need an experienced people-person who has connections around the league. It’s not like Sabean is opposed to analytics. He’ll use information like he always did, as a tool to be balanced with scouting and baseball acumen.”

Hard to argue with that description. Or Sabean’s resume, for that matter. Cohen should at least give the guy a call.